Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - March 28, 2021
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord commemorates both the Lord’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem and His passion. By recalling Jesus’ journey to the cross, the prayers and scriptures of the day invite us into deeper union with our Lord and compel us to become part of the story by following his example. As we begin Holy Week, our focus is not only on what happened to Jesus but also, and more importantly, on what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did for our salvation.
The Passion draws our attention to Jesus’ willingness to empty himself out for others. In the First Reading today, the prophet Isaiah proclaims the confidence of God’s servant who, knowing how to speak the truth to the weary, does not falter even in the face of suffering. He trusts that “the Lord God is my help; therefore, I am not disgraced, [and] I shall not be put to shame.” Isaiah’s servant song helps us to understand the way Jesus did not resist his fate but accepted the certainty of his mission and relied on the strength he received from God. Jesus manifested the attitude of Isaiah’s suffering servant, and his passion fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy.
The Gospel account of the Passion, according to Mark, draws our attention to Jesus’ willingness to engage the way of the cross. Jesus does not resist his fate but accepts it as the inevitable result of aligning himself with a God who invites all who follow him to heed his Son's humility and "patient suffering and so merit a share in his Resurrection" (Collect for Mass). Jesus shows us that adversity and difficulty do not deter a true disciple and that it is possible to accept the Father’s will and live the active, faith-filled lives that God desires of us.
By enduring his suffering and death and in his experience of the loneliness of suffering, Jesus shows us that he sustains and supports all those who suffer unjustly. Jesus did not give up. He continued to trust, turning to God for strength in the midst of suffering. His trust in God unshaken, even as he died, drew the attention of the Gentile centurion who affirmed that “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
God assured our Lord, and he assures us that death does not have the last word for those who empty themselves out for the sake of others. Saint Paul knew that as he wrote to the Philippians a generation later and encouraged them to have the attitude of Christ. Though Christ was in the form of God, he emptied himself and freely took on the human form of a powerless slave, “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Because he humbled himself, God exalted him in name and in glory.
Christ’s acceptance of his passion and crucifixion is a witness to the extent of God’s love for humanity, for all humanity for all time. Jesus’ suffering was harsh, but he took on the suffering for us in service to us, and he continues to serve us out of tremendous love for us. Like Christ, we are called to humble ourselves in service to one another.
As Holy Week unfolds, we want to reflect upon and pray about Jesus’ courageous commitment to God’s plan, on the trust he had in his heavenly Father, and on the love that he carried for all of us as he approached the cross. We pray that God, who sent his Son to save us, will continue to give us the spirit of true faith so that these holy days might awaken our repentance, increase our compassion and humble service to others, and fill us with overflowing joy at Easter!