Gospel Reflection – Palm Sunday
Jesus the Wounded Healer
It is the time of year when Christians remember the death and resurrection of Jesus, the most important days in human history. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. You may have a crucifix at home, perhaps a small one on rosary beads. Maybe you can download the picture. The one you see nailed in pain is the wounded healer.
This year we read Mark’s account of the passion of Jesus. Mark wrote his gospel when the Christians in Rome were suffering persecution. Some were asking where was God during this injustice and suffering. Mark’s answer is that although Jesus might have saved us in a painless way, yet his total love inspired him to enter into solidarity with all who suffer. No matter what you suffer, physically, emotionally or spiritually, Jesus was in there before you.
The drama of Calvary
Drama was the most popular form of literature in Rome when Mark was writing, and he was a master dramatist. More than the other evangelists, he spares nothing of the physical brutality Jesus suffered. His drama reaches its climax at the cry of inner dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” Even faith itself is tested. Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. The narrator pauses dramatically in stunned silence. It seems that all is lost. The pace changes and we are told that the veil in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. The Roman Centurion who had directed the execution, having seen how Jesus died, said, “In truth this man was a Son of God.” It’s the first time in this Gospel that anybody has recognised exactly who Jesus is. This is Mark’s answer to those who were asking where is God in their experience of persecution. He is with us because he has entered into solidarity with all who suffer. Actions speak more loudly than words. By entering suffering he is telling us, “No matter how you are suffering, I am there with you.” This is what is called compassion, which literally means suffering with somebody.
The Letter to the Hebrews, also written for a people going through a hard time, calls Jesus a compassionate high priest. “For the suffering he himself passed through, while being put to the test, enables him to help others when they are being put to the test” (Heb 2:18).
The many sufferings of Jesus
Think of all the ways Jesus suffered. People who have suffered an injustice might remember how Jesus too was a victim of false charges and an unjust trial. He was mocked and spat upon. People who have been betrayed in marriage will relate to the cold kiss of Judas on the cheek of Jesus. When we feel let down by friends remember that Jesus was deserted by many of his closest followers. He must have experienced family pain as he looked at his mother at the foot of the cross. As Simeon foretold many years previously, a sword of sorrow pierced her heart. Think of the physical suffering … crowned with thorns, scourged with whips, faltering under the cross, nailed through hands and feet. His breathing became more jerky. Every movement of his body stabbed a new pain. He even entered the darkness of spiritual dereliction: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” He has fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “By his wounds we are healed.”
We are being tested
During the present pandemic, everybody is suffering in one way or another. Frustration at the restrictions on movement and social contact is boiling over. Our patience is tested. Maybe our faith is being tested too. The Scriptures assure us that the wounded Saviour is with us in our trials.
Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross remind us of people who accompanied Jesus. Simon of Cyrene shared the weight of his cross. Veronica wiped his faced clean of blood, sweat, spittle and dust. A group of sympathetic women wept for him. The apostle John and some women supported Mary. The Covid pandemic has revealed the extraordinary goodness of many people reaching out to help others. Heroic, selfless medical staff. Trained people returning to make their contribution. The unselfish acceptance of severe restrictions for the sake of others. Never forget that the death of Jesus was the prelude to his resurrection. We are a people of hope who trust in God.
On this Palm Sunday, think of the humble donkey carrying Jesus into Jerusalem. I may not have much to offer, but the little sacrifices I make for the wellbeing of others make me a carrier: not a carrier of virus, but a carrier of Jesus, the wounded healer.
“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken his seat at the right of God’s throne” (Heb. 12:2).
Prayer of the Day
Lord Jesus Christ, compassionate Saviour, by humbly accepting the sufferings of your Passion, you have lovingly entered into solidarity with all who are suffering in any way. As we look up at your cross may we recognise that you have not deserted us but you are with us in every valley of darkness. As your painful death was the prelude to your resurrection, may we go forward to Easter full of hope.
Br Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap.