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A Scripture Reflection for Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

by Dan Masterton | April 9, 2017

A Scripture Reflection for Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

April 9, 2017: Mt 21:1-11; Is 50:4-7; Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24; Phil 2:6-11; Mt 26:14-27:66 or Mt 27:11-54

This year, on the Third Sunday of Lent, I didn’t make it to Mass.

I was in the hospital, at the bedside of my exhausted wife, Katherine, together taking care of our newborn daughter, Lucy Karen, who had been born late on Saturday night. From our hospital room, we called the chaplain service, and a kind old priest visited us with a blessing, the Eucharist, and kind conversation.

The next Sunday, we took Lucy with us to Mass, a bit weary but proud to be a family among the ranks of the faithful on a Sunday morning. My wife was anxious about Lucy waking up and crying at Mass, but I felt hopeful that we had timed Mass with a nice deep part of her sleep cycle. Lucy slept soundly like a champ, and her peace made additional space for my joyful heart to be present at Mass again.

The first reading from Mass can go in one ear and right out the other. Maybe I’m still waking up, maybe I’m praying or thinking about something, maybe I’m still moving my mind off of anxieties and worries and into fuller presence - I often don’t lock in my faithful listening as quickly as I’d like sometimes. However, on that Sunday, the reading from 1 Samuel shot straight to my heart, particularly God’s instructions to Samuel as he goes with oil to anoint a new king from among Jesse’s sons:

"Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature,
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see,
because man sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart."

There was something fresh about this insight based on the past week of my life.

In five days at the hospital, I was surrounded by selfless, compassionate, and highly skilled medical professionals who combined wonderful love with an impressive ability to care for Lucy and Katherine. None of them sat in cushy offices with degrees on the wall or awards lined up on bookshelves; none of them kept a distance or maintained any air of superiority; none of them hesitated to provide any personal, hands-on support in whatever way that could be helpful. Their activity was focused entirely on care for another person and not on appearances or stature.

Katherine and Lucy only further reflected this truth. Katherine was constantly apologetic for any burden she put on her caregivers and strove, even amid great pain and frustration, to remain cordial, kind, and courteous to everyone who tended to her, never presuming any exceptionalism. And here beside her sat Lucy, not even two feet tall. She can’t do anything herself and provides no value or productiveness to society as a baby, yet Katherine, all the medical team, and I would do anything and everything to support her and help her grow and develop healthily.

The atmosphere was all about selflessness, across the board. Nothing in the midst of labor and delivery and postpartum health expends any energy or any time focusing on appearances or stature. Instead, people are given their full dignity as God’s sons and daughters as everyone simply works to be the hands and feet of Christ.

This calls to mind the profound, counter-cultural message of Christ. Jesus is God who came into this world not by trumpets or fire but in the messy, dirty, icky miracle of childbirth to a human mother. Jesus is God who offers himself to the world as the perfect sacrifice not by glory and fame but in the cruel, inhumane humiliation of the cross.

In a political and social climate where so much is decided by appearances and stature, Jesus values neither at all. In the Gospel of Passion Sunday and the journey of the Triduum, Christ does pray that this cup might pass from Him, but as arrest, trial, and crucifixion come to Him, He accepts it totally. Not concerned with the optics of how these shameful social punishments may look, Jesus undertakes the total gift of himself as He empties Himself, taking the form of a slave and remains obedient unto death, even death by crucifixion on His cross.

Just as God and Samuel look past the apparent impressiveness of Jesse’s other sons to the enormous heart and budding fidelity of David, Jesus knows in His Passion that the selfless gift of His Love is greater than any blows crucifixion can deal to His appearance of stature. His Passion turned the cross from a sign of shame to a symbol of hope, and Jesus’ indifference toward how He may be perceived gave us the ultimate gift of eternal life and invites us to praise and thank Him above all others. By totally eschewing any thought of His own stature, Jesus rightfully ascends to His place at the Father’s right hand.

In the Passion of Christ, God shows us that, as St. Maximilian Kolbe says, “love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving - without sacrifice, there is no love.” As we observe Passion Sunday and Holy Week, let us let go of our need to look good. Jesus invokes Mary’s celebration of God’s casting the powerful from thrones and lifting up the lowly. May we find in Christ the perfect example of putting love above all things, surrendering our need to control our image in favor of the self-sacrifice of love.

The above image is from the Public Domain.

Author information Dan Masterton

Dan Masterton completed an MA in Biblical Ministry at Catholic Theological Union in 2016 and graduated cum laude in 2011 from the University of Notre Dame with a BA in Honors Theology. Dan is a campus minister and also works as a speaker/presenter for various Church engagements. Additionally, Dan edits a blog, The Restless Hearts, which you can follow on Twitter or Facebook. Dan participated in Catholics on Call in August of 2009.

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