Sunday, March 24, 2024

Welcoming the Uncovered

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (B)

Readings: Mark 11: 1-10; Isaiah 50: 4-7; Psalm 21 (22) :8-9, 17-20, 23-24; Philippians 2: 6-11; Mark 14: 1-15: 47

Picture: By Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

(At the Entrance:) My dear friends, today our attention is usually focused on the palms we bless and hold in our hands. For the scriptures say that people used such branches to welcome Jesus as an anointed king. But more than just waving branches, they also took off their cloaks, and laid them on the road. Which indicates not just a welcoming, but also an uncovering. Similarly, our scriptures today will remind us that the Passion of the Lord has power to uncover previously hidden things. About God, and about ourselves. So let us pray for the grace to welcome such revelations, as together we enter this holiest week of our year.

(At the Ambo:) My dear friends, what would it feel like to see a naked person in public? Isn’t it true that, despite the proliferation of pornography today, the sight of a bare human body can still embarrass and unsettle us? Yet, in the gospel we just heard, we find not just one, but two naked bodies. First, at Gethsemane, when Jesus is arrested, a young man who followed him is forced to run away in his birthday suit. And then later, at Golgotha, after Jesus is crucified, we’re told that they shared out his clothing. Which implies that, as he hung on the Cross, our beloved Lord had nothing to wear.

Why does the gospel shine such an embarrassing spotlight on public nudity? Could it be that, like the laying down of garments, the baring of bodies points to an uncovering of hidden things? What does the nakedness of the Crucified Christ indicate, if not the uncovering of the previously under-appreciated depths of God’s love for us? A love that, moves Christ to empty himself to the point of accepting death… on a cross. So that all who acknowledge him as Lord, all who imitate him in learning to listen like a disciple, and in standing and speaking on the side of Truth, all who walk the Way of the Cross as he did, will also be raised to fullness of life in him?

And what does the nakedness of the young man indicate, if not the uncovering of the true extent of the disciples’ faith in their Lord. Something previously hidden even from themselves. The terrible weakness of their flesh, despite the eager willingness of their spirits. For the gospel tells us that, when Jesus was arrested, his (male) disciples all deserted him and ran away. Even Peter’s insistent profession of loyalty leads only to a regretful profusion of tears. Still, to be fair, the Lord’s Passion doesn’t just uncover the hidden cowardice of some. It also reveals the quiet courage of others. Such as that unnamed woman at Bethany, who braves public ridicule, to anoint his body for burial. And those other women, who used to look after him… in Galilee, and who followed him, watching from a distance, right to the end. As well as that Pharisee from Arimathea, who was a disciple only in secret (Jn 19:38), but who boldly went to Pilate to ask for his body.

Sisters and brothers, the Passion of our Lord has the unsettling but life-giving power to uncover previously hidden things. In this holiest of weeks, as we accompany Jesus on his Way, what is the Lord uncovering for us, and what shall we do to more humbly welcome his revelations?

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