We want to turn away. We haven’t yet reached Palm Sunday! Why are we asked to preview all the terrible anguish to come? We will have to face it, read it again next Friday, Good Friday, which comes all too soon.
Mark’s account of the crucifixion is almost unbearably stark compared with other Gospel accounts. Its brief, blinding intensity hurts. Nevertheless, the scripture invites us to see the full dimension of the story, to see the triumph of Palm Sunday through the eyes of the crucifixion to come. But lest we despair, let us remember that the story of the Crucifixion was written by those who had also witnessed the Resurrection.
It is the same in our personal lives. We understand our suffering more deeply when we see it and share it through the eyes of our healing. In the midst of suffering, we value all the more poignantly the precious love given to us. We see love through the eyes of pain; we see pain through the eyes of love.
On the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, as he faces the hostile crowds, I do not believe that his thoughts are bitter as he recalls the triumphal entry just days earlier. Perhaps he remembers the eyes of those who genuinely loved him in the welcoming crowd and find that memory precious. Seeing those same eyes now weeping for him, perhaps he gains strength through their love.
We are invited to this blended vision that is not the same as the vertigo of double vision. God’s watchful heart breaks through to us as we read the Crucifixion story through the eyes both of Palm Sunday and the Easter to come. The loving gaze of God’s heart holds this blended vision together.
Open the eyes of my heart this day, O God, that I may see both your pain for us and your strong joy in us. Help me to hold both pain and joy in my heart as I relate to others. Surround me with your heart. Amen.
This week’s readings prepare us for Palm Sunday, a joyous event. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of kingship in ancient Israel. The people greet him with loud acclamations. He is coming in the name of the Lord! Standing along the road leading into Jerusalem, how could anyone imagine what would happen that following week? Wasn’t Jesus finally going to manifest the fullness of God’s power, take his place on the throne of David, and overthrow the Romans? No, because that was not his mission. He came not to build an earthly kingdom but to lay aside his rights. He came to be glorified by being humiliated . . . for us. He came to suffer and die . . . for us.
• Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. What situations have called you to move forward in vulnerability, “knowing that God promises not safety but limitless strength”?
• Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. When have you claimed God’s strength to see you through “the gates of righteousness”?
• Read Mark 11:1-11, 15-18. In a trying time in your life, when have you turned to the love and care of friends? How have you experienced God’s entering your life calmly and gently?
• Read Philippians 2:5-11. How does this early Christian hymn of the church speak to you as you enter Holy Week?
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