Prayer of the Day
Passion (Palm) SundayMarch 29th, 2015
Today with the blessing of the palm branches we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and thus we call it Palm Sunday. But the central part of today’s liturgy is Mark’s harrowing account of the passion and death of Jesus. The backdrop is the feast of Passover. The lambs were slaughtered and offered in the Temple in Jerusalem in the late afternoon of the 14 Nisan, in the Jewish calendar, and the meal was celebrated on the following evening. Mark presents the Last Supper as a Passover meal. Jesus is the lamb and the emphasis on his blood brings out his significance as the Passover Lamb. The reference to the blood is a reminder of the escape from the slavery of Egypt when the blood of the lamb was sprinkled on the doorposts in Egypt marking out the Israelites as the children of God (Ex, 12:1-14). During the meal Jesus uses the words “took bread,” “blessed,” “broke” “gave”: the same actions same words that were used in both feeding stories (6:41;8:6). He took the cup and having given thanks he gave it to them and they all drank from it. This is the blood of the new covenant. Those who are about to betray, deny and flee from him are all invited to participate in the meal. The salvific death of Jesus is for all. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us we form a single body because we all share in this one loaf (1 Cor 10:11). In the Garden of Gethsemane the prayer of Jesus is highlighted against the failure of the three chosen disciples, Peter, James and John ‘to keep watch.’ His soul is sorrowful even unto death, he tells them. We think of the prayer of the psalmist: “My heart is in anguish within me; and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and darkness overwhelms me (Ps. 54:5). The arrest follows and the trials before the Jewish leaders and Pilate. Before Pilate Jesus is mocked as king of the Jews. He is crowned with thorns and physically and verbally abused. In Mark’s Gospel Jesus dies in total desolation, taunted by his enemies, deserted by his friends and worst of all abandoned by God. Now Jesus experiences what it means to give up his life as a ransom for many.