Isaiah 50: 4-7; Psalm 22, R: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?; Philippians 2: 6-11
Gospel: Matthew 26: 4–27:11-54
On Palm Sunday two years ago, I reflected on the three things a person must have to live a meaningful life, according to Fr. Hans Kung, SJ. He said one must have something to live on, something to live for and something to die for.
In the 33-year journey of Jesus in his human life, we could see how he lived through these in the different stages of his life.
We can presume that for the 30 years of his hidden life, he had something to live on, getting support from Joseph and Mary, and taking on the trade of his father, Joseph the Carpenter.
In the Baptism narrative, Jesus discovered something to live for as he has his first beatific vision of his identity and mission: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3: 22)
So began his public life and ministry as a teacher, healer and leader—totally dedicated to what his Father called him to live for.
It was this mission to proclaim and bring into our midst the Kingdom of his Father, and to issue the call to repentance and to believe in the Good News that he lived for in the next three years of his life.
As he dedicated his life more and more to this, it became clearer and clearer to him that what he lived for was revealing to him something to die for. It was to this that he would devote himself for the remaining time of his life.
It is this something to die for in the life of Jesus that we remember and celebrate today, Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.
This year we have a very different context for our reflections. Reflecting on our something to live on, something to live for and something to die for in the midst of the pandemic and the crises it has created—over a million afflicted and tens of thousands dead due to the new coronavirus, the suffering of the daily wage earners and their families—gives us, perhaps, sharper focus.
Living with less
We realize how some of us, many perhaps, can actually live on much less. I pray that this experience may teach us at least two things in our relationship with the material things we need to live on. One, to realize we can live with the basics. Two, to realize the value of caring for our world’s resources and environment.
There is a third and, perhaps, the most important lesson. Many have very little to live on. This is the deeper call to conversion and to deepen our learning. We can live simply, as the saying goes, so others can simply live.
In shifting our view of something to live on, we become more open to what it is that is our something to live for.
In this time of lockdown, we discover a deeper and more spiritual aspect of our life. What is it that I live for, who do I live for?
In his reflections during the “Extraordinary Urbi et Orbi Blessing” on March 28, Pope Francis said: “You [Jesus] are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.”
This is the grace of this experience. It makes clear to us what we are to live for. Beyond our family, friends and loved ones, it is a time to choose to “get our lives back on track.”
It is now dedicating our lives to Jesus and to others, to live for and with him, and to live for and in solidarity with others—especially the poor who have suffered the most in this pandemic and the heroes who have put their lives at risk, the genuine front-liners, to live in solidarity with them rooted and grounded in our shared humanity.
Time for discerning
This is the time, as we enter Holy Week this Sunday, to discern what it is that we are called and are willing to die for.
This pandemic has caused a major crisis. With the string of crises in the many ordinary aspects of our life, our collective experiences bring us to this major crisis in the whole world. The Passion of Jesus weaves together the string of crises in his three years of ministry, of living out his something to live for, and brings it to a head in a major crisis.
The Agony in the Garden gives us a vivid picture of the major crisis of Jesus. He breaks down after years of preparing for the moment of his something to die for. He asks his Father “if it is possible” to spare him. From this moment to the moment of his saying “not my will, but your will be done,” Jesus pivots from “live for” to “die for.”
His Passion and Death first come in this moment in the garden, in his Prayer in the Garden, where he was alone, all alone with his Father, as his friends lay sleeping. This prepares him for what lies ahead this week.
His Passion, Death and Resurrection transform the experience of crisis. All human crisis is now viewed from this perspective. The crisis in the Garden, the Passion and the Cross break down and transform everything and everyone that we may experience the synthesis in and of the Resurrection.
We begin our observance of Holy Week in the midst of this major global crisis, and we pray this season of grace will bless us with the beginnings of the synthesis of a new heaven and a new earth in the Resurrection. —CONTRIBUTED