Catholic Homily / Sunday Worship Guide / Sunday Reflection

Passion / Palm Sunday
April 5, 2009

Passion Sunday opens the holiest week of the liturgical calendar. It opens with some kind of a “bang” in the sense that it begins with a triumphant procession, with Jesus’ entry being acclaimed as the coming in glory of the promised and much-awaited Messiah. In many places such triumphant entry is re-enacted in some way through a procession with blessing of palms and the singing, where possible of “Hosanna to the Son of David.”

This first part that is sedately triumphant and joyful, however, stands in stark contrast to the second part that is highlighted by the reading of the Passion. The mood changes. The second part is some kind of a reality check. This Messiah who has been acclaimed is saviour and king alright, but not exactly the way and manner expected by people. He was to be no military leader, no deliverer by way of arms and force and might, but a humble suffering servant figure who would go the way of suffering and death – indeed, a shameful, ignominious death, by any standard.

The Gospel of Mark even makes clear the path by which Jesus was to show himself to be the expected saviour – by way of his humanity, by way of his unassuming simplicity and apparent ordinariness.

It takes a sensitive eye to see beyond the ordinary. It takes a discerning mind and heart to see beyond mere appearances, it takes a whole lot of sensitivity of soul to perceive extraordinary greatness that go under the guise of ordinariness. Sensitivity of soul … this is sorely missing today as before, for peoples of all times and places. Sensitivity of soul … this represents the richness of a person who sees with a sacramental stance. The sensitive of soul sees things, events and people and for him all point to something else. The sensitive of soul considers everything a sacrament that points to something beyond its raw materiality. The sensitive of soul, like the poet, sees a flower and sees something more than just colors and petals and sweetness. He or she sees a smile of God, a ray of grace from above, a sign of the divinity.

I see His blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of His eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.

I see His face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but His voice – and carven by His power
Rocks are His written words.

All pathways by His feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.

Joseph M. Plunkett

Two traits stand out in today’s very sedate liturgy: the sensitivity of soul of the centurion who saw beyond the suffering and the pain and the ignominy undergone by Jesus, as shown by his properly discerning him to be indeed the Son of God. “Clearly, this man is the Son of God!” But apart from this is a second trait: the extraordinariness behind the ordinariness of Jesus’ suffering, and death.

I am referring to the parodoxical power of witnessing of an apparently ordinary man who went through everything imaginable, everything in the books of torture and shame-dealing during those times, a most shameful way to die – the old times’ way of giving capital punishment. But beyond the ordinary method of killing common criminals stood a powerful extraordinary witness of extraordinary patience, humility, dignity, forbearance, strength of will, inner resilience, humble forgiveness for the erring, inner serenity and total giving of oneself.

The sensitive of soul saw through all this and declared ahead of everyone else: “Clearly this man is the Son of God!” The divinity of Jesus shone brightly through his humanity enveloped in weakness … freely chosen, accepted, complied with perfect resignation of will. This utter “weakness” exuded interior strength that cannot come from any other source but God. Only God can sustain such an extraordinary feat of self-abnegation. “Clearly this man is the Son of God.”

This Holy Week, I would like to think we all will resolve to be a bit less taken up by the mad rush for Tagaytay, Baguio and the overcrowded beaches. I would like to think that, for many of us, holy week is to be set aside to heighten and nurture the seeds of sensitivity in our hearts. It is increased by our efforts at giving a second look at everything, giving a second thought to the services of the Paschal Triduum. Sensitivity of soul can only take place for those who come into quiet, and assume a contemplative stance, a sacramental stance, if you will. For the sensitive of soul, the paschal triduum can not but lead him or her to accept, acknowledge and eventually proclaim, that indeed, this Jesus, this man is indeed the Son of God.