for Palm Sunday
Is 50:4-7 - Phil 2:6-11 - Mt 27:50-54
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
The Glory of the Crucified One
Is 50:4, The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. 5, The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward. 6, I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. 7, For the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been confounded; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
Palm Sunday represents Jesus' greatest human triumph. Never in all his life was Jesus honored as he is today: He is the long-awaited Messiah, and thousands of voices proclaim this! In this sense, Palm Sunday announces and anticipates the final triumph of Jesus at his Return at the end of time. But Jesus is not deceived: He knows that, even if this crowd that acclaims him is sincere at this precise moment, it will soon follow the opinion of the high priests, who will incite Pilate to condemn Jesus to death. Certainly, perhaps not all the faithful of Palm Sunday would call for the death of Jesus a few days later. But it is clear that, on Good Friday, Jesus is alone, with Mary, his Mother.
The Glory of the Crucified One! It is the triumph of Jesus on Palm Sunday, the triumph of a man already crucified in his Heart, a Heart that belongs wholly to God, his Father. For Jesus wants to do nothing but the Will of his Father: "I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me." (Jn 6:38) This Will of the Father is all of Jesus' strength! If he trusts in his Father, faithfully accomplishing his Will, Jesus knows that the Spirit who rests on Him will always be ready to help him, no matter what. And when the hour of the supreme sacrifice comes, the Holy Spirit will come to his rescue: "Through the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself without blemish to God." (Hebr 9:14)
If the Crucified One must be glorified, the Holy Spirit cannot fail to do so! The same is true for us today. If we must be glorified, it will be through the Holy Spirit: "When they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit." (Mk 13:11) Already, in today's first reading, the Prophet Isaiah presents the suffering Servant - a figure of the Christ to come - as he who freely offers his body to outrages, while not losing courage, and setting his face - through the Spirit of God - as hard as stone, a sign of Christ and of the Strength of God!
Phil 2:6, Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8, And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 9, Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Throughout his life, always without murmur or protest, Jesus obeyed his Father in Heaven, as well as his father and mother on earth. Having at each instant of his life the intention of saving all the men and women of the earth, Jesus truly lived his Passion throughout his whole life, when he punctually obeyed the orders of his earthly parents, or accomplished the Will of his Father in Heaven.
But this life of obedience was strewn with real and profound joys, moments of glory and of exaltation in the Spirit! For instance, during his hidden life, Jesus went to Jerusalem, accompanying his parents. At least once, around the age of twelve, this obedience to his parents allowed him to introduce himself into the assembly of the priests and scholars, gathered together in the Temple, and begin manifesting his obedience to his Father in Heaven. This was a moment of Glory, on the way to the Passion, when "all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers" (Lk 2:47).
During his public life, some time after his Transfiguration, the moment of Glory par excellence, "Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit..." (Lk 10:21) Always accomplishing the Will of his Father, Jesus goes straight to the point, and when the hour of the supreme sacrifice comes, he does not balk: he willingly accepts that infamous, ignominious death, death on the Cross. "He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross." This allows the Father to exalt him to the highest degree: "God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Mt 27:50, And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 51, And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; 52, the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54, When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"
Jesus died on the Cross. Just before this, he let out a great cry. How can a crucified man let out such a cry? It is necessary for the Spirit of God himself to intervene in order to give that poor death rattle an extraordinary strength and power!
Jesus dies, and miracles burst forth! The Glory of the Crucified One cannot wait: it must manifest itself immediately and everywhere! The earth trembles, the tombs open, the dead resurrect!
But does not the greatest Glory of the Crucified One burst forth in the heart, in the soul of the centurion and of some of the soldiers present there? For in their heart and in their soul is being born a faith, a faith that saves, a faith in the Divinity of the Crucified One! "Truly this was the Son of God!"
May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, present there at the foot of that Cross, strong with the Power of the Spirit, help us with her ever-effective prayer!