Passion (Palm) Sunday is one of the most powerful liturgies the Church offers to the the faithful. We begin with Jesus’ triumphant arrival in Jerusalem through the East Gate on the foal of a donkey. This is prophesied by Ezekiel (chapter 43) and Zechariah (Chapter 9). The Responsorial Psalm asks the question “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Saint Paul teaches us that Jesus’ love for humanity and his obedience to the point of death are core to our understanding of who this Jesus is? Finally there is the powerful passion narrative, this year focused on Mark’s Gospel which tells the story that will unfold during our observance this week prior to Easter.
In this reflection I would like to examine the actions of the woman who anointed Jesus in comparison to the complaints of the disciples. As a lay ecclesial minister, a husband and a step parent I really am drawn to the Passion narrative and the Responsorial Psalm. Think about your ministry when I share some of my disappointments below:
- Have you ever planned what you thought was going to be a wonderful in-service, lesson plan or retreat only to have those who participated respond that it didn’t meet their expectations?
- Have you planned a wonderful formation event for the parish only to have a small turnout when you were expecting a large crowd?
- Have you had to explain to the Finance Council or the School Board the reasons the parish should continue to support comprehensive youth ministry when it seems they are more concerned about numbers than trying to grow discipleship in youth?
- Has a sporting event or competitive dance ever trumped your 1st Eucharist learning stations or the Confirmation Retreat?
- I can only imagine the disappointment that our pastors experience when people do not show up for Sunday Eucharist or the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- Parents who try to raise their children in the faith but have many challenges, especially those whose marriages have been broken and the ex-spouse refuses to cooperate.
It is during these times that I think of the Responsorial Psalm that we sang today, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” We try so hard to share God’s love by teaching and witnessing to the Catholic faith and yet it seems it is one step forward and two steps back. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
But we can’t allow ourselves to stay rooted in this responsorial. Psalm 22 may begin by questioning where God is in the midst of our suffering but it ends with the psalmist praising God and becoming a witness to the entire community. This is also where I am reminded annually that the woman who anoints Jesus with expensive oil is remembered throughout history: her compassion for Jesus, her recognizing him as Messiah and her anointing him in advance of his death are honored 2000 years later. There are lessons for me as a lay ecclesial minister from this woman’s courageous action:
- Will I be a disciple who continually recognizes Christ’s presence in those I encounter every day?
- Will I be a disciple who ignores current culture and reaches out to those who are in need: the orphan, the stranger and the widow?
- Will I be a disciple who looks through the difficulties of participating in Christ’s mission and share the joy found in His Gospel?
Much has changed since Jesus endured his passion out of love for you and me; and yet much hasn’t changed. May you and I encounter this week the spark that initially lead each of us to give our lives to Christ. Below are a few wonderful videos that you can share about Passion Sunday from two perspectives: Father Barron gives us a textured scriptural accounting while the Skit Guys provide some humor with a point.
May you and your family have a blessed Holy Week.
Passion Sunday reflection by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Diocese of Des Moines.