Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Liturgical Reflection on Passion Sunday / Catholic Sunday Worship Guide

Palm Sunday opens the unfolding drama of the mystery of salvation that we Filipinos seem very much at home in. In today’s telenovela-crazed culture, we find sympathetic resonance in our hearts as we accompany the Lord in his journey of triumph on entering Jerusalem, only to move towards seeming defeat at Calvary. Ever attracted by the plight of the proverbial underdog, we see pathos, we feel pity, and we feel one with the suffering Christ even as we join the crowds in initially singing hosannas to the King of Kings!

Two seemingly conflicting images pierce our consciousness in today’s colorful but sedate liturgy: the triumphant entry of Jesus to Jerusalem, evoking Christ’s triumph as King, on the one hand, and the circumstances, conditions and the means Christ had to pass through to gain that eventual definitive victory – the Passion!

Palm Sunday is all about this seeming contradiction. Palm Sunday is all about apparent utter failure and defeat. It is all about a God condescending totally towards weak, sinful and frail humanity, becoming one with us in all things, but sin, even joining us for a while in savoring the triumph that awaits us all – the already and the not yet of our salvation-participation in the victory of God who will have the final word in the end. Palm Sunday is about us people who, one moment can sing hosannas, and at another, cry out lustily “crucify him!” Palm Sunday is about us sinful humanity, struggling between acceptance of a God who gives life, and the refusal of a God who indeed gives it while killing, while himself passing through the path of passion and death!

We do not easily understand it all! Come to think about it, if it were a mere telenovela, we would rally behind a pitiful figure of one subjected as Isaiah reports to us, to all sorts of ignominies, a suffering servant, alone and silent as we will see and hear in Mark’s account of the Passion, “who humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross” (Phil 2:8).

The response of Jesus to the shouts of triumphant hosannas was silence. It was the silence of a humble man who came, not astride a horse like mighty and powerful men would do, but on a lowly colt, whose owner was not even significant enough to be named for posterity. The response of Jesus to the untold suffering in his Passion was silence too. Mark reports that Jesus spoke only three times after his arrest. In the face of so many questions, Mark tells us: “But he was silent and answered nothing” (Mk 14:61). Before the High Priest, he declared himself the Messiah and the Son of Man. Before Pilate, he says he is King of the Jews. And on the cross, all he cried out was the lament of the suffering servant: Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani!

This is the impressive and eloquent silence of one who speaks, who represents, and who IS truth! This is the eloquence of one who would go through the most impressive silence and at the same time the most powerful statement from the God of the living and the dead – the silence of the tomb and the deafening roar of victory in the Resurrection! In this noise-filled world, one does well today to remember that genuine eloquence comes not from empty words, but from the power of liberating truth.