Sunday, March 28, 2021

Tapping-Out Vs Diving-In


Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (B)

Readings: Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 21(22):8-9,17-20,23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 15:1-39

Pictures: cc James Brooks & FeBird Hou

My dear friends, are you familiar with the term tap-out. In certain martial arts contests, when one fighter is unable to break free from an opponent’s grip, he or she taps the opponent to concede defeat. Tapping-out is a sign of submission, of surrender, of withdrawal, of giving up the fight. Do you ever feel like doing that? Like you’ve simply had enough, and are ready to quit? What do you do? Where or how do you find the strength to soldier on?

These are some of the questions that come to mind at the start of Holy Week, as we watch Jesus take the painful road that leads from the palms of welcome to the passion of betrayal and rejection, of torture and death. There is a word that appears both in the prayer we said at the beginning of Mass, and in the blessing we will use at the end. A word that describes this road that Jesus walks. The word is submit. The road to the Cross is a journey of submission.

And yet it’s important that we understand what this means. Unlike a martial arts contest, the Lord’s submission is not a giving up, or a withdrawal. On the contrary, it is a total dedication of oneself. In the first reading, the suffering servant devotes every part of his body to the mission entrusted to him. I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle. And the second reading beautifully describes how Christ empties himself, even to the point of accepting death, death on a cross. The submission of Christ is not a tapping-out but a diving-in. An ever deeper immersion into the messiness and pain of human reality.

And the readings also indicate to us how Jesus finds the strength to do this. The resources on which he draws. When it seems as though the prospect of the Cross is too terrible for him to bear, Jesus gathers his disciples for spiritual conversation and shared prayer. And when even these closest friends of his fail him, the Lord prays earnestly and honestly to his heavenly Father. Not just in the Garden of Gethsemane, but also on the Wood of the Cross. By taking pains to maintain connections, both with supportive friends, and ultimately with his faithful God, Jesus is able to tap into the energy he needs to sustain his submission to suffering.

As a result, the Lord himself becomes a resource for all who may be tired or burnt out from fighting the good fight. Jesus is that loving, consoling, re-energising Word, spoken by God to all who are wearied. Allowing us to share the experience of the centurion at the foot of the Cross. Able to somehow recognise the encouraging presence and action of God, even in the most depressing of situations.

Especially when we are tired and tempted to tap-out, it’s important to remember that the Lord’s journey to the Cross is for us a reliable wellspring of sustainable energy. Sisters and brothers, what must we do to better tap into this spiritual resource, so as to engage ever more deeply and lovingly in our beautiful but chaotic world today?

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