Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The celebration of Mass on Palm Sunday begins with the proclamation of the Gospel account of Jesus’ entrance in Jerusalem. As we all know the Gospel proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word is the Passion of the Lord which is also proclaimed on Good Friday.

While the passion according to St. John is proclaimed every single year on Good Friday, on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, we hear the Passion according to the Evangelist whose Gospel we are reading on that particular year. Since this liturgical year we are reading the Gospel according to St. Mark, this Sunday we hear the Passion according to St. Mark.

There are two persons that appear in Mark’s narration that have especially caught my attention this year. One of them is the young man who is following Jesus as He is being led before the authorities. St. Mark is the only Evangelist who mentions this man, yet he does not tell us much about him. We do not know who he was. Mark does not offer much information about him other than the fact that he was young, he was following the Lord as He was arrested, he was wearing only a linen cloth and when they seized him, he managed to escape by removing his clothes and running away naked.

The other character is the centurion who upon seeing the Lord die on the cross exclaims: “Truly, this man was the son of God!”

One can only wonder if this Roman soldier is making a profession of faith or simply expressing admiration at the strength and courage of Jesus, His patient endurance of a gruesome death without uttering a threat but simply entrusting Himself to the Father of mercies and even forgiving those who are bringing this incredible suffering to Him.

This centurion is one of many characters in the Gospel according to Mark who though seemingly quite unlikely to recognize the Lord for who He is, publicly acknowledge Him as Lord. In fact, one of the characteristics proper to this Gospel is the fact that through it all those who at first sight would seem least likely to recognize Him are in fact the ones who do.

The centurion may have been an inadvertent confessor of the faith who may have been simply reacting with admiration for this man because of the way He died, yet he is asserting the deepest truth about the man whose death he has witnessed.

Jesus is the son of God, He is God the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity who was Incarnate of the Mary Virgin Mary by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.

When all is said and done, we Christians follow a man, believe in a human person. Now the man Jesus, whom we follow is not an ordinary human being. He happens to be God made man out of love for His creatures.

The very accusation of blasphemy levied against Him is based on His claim to be God. Throughout this past week during daily Mass we have been hearing passages where He even appropriates for Himself the divine name revealed by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, most notably in the Gospel of John chapter 8.

These claims would be meaningless of course, if the Paschal mystery had not taken place. The centurion is therefore affirming what the Church would go on to proclaim down the centuries and what we believe.

Jesus Christ is truly man and truly God!

Because He is God, He redeems us by his Passion and Death, He speaks with authority and makes absolute demands on our lives. Because He is fully man he shows to us with his entire life how we are to live our human nature and what we were created for.

His entire public ministry is a progressive revelation of His nature. Everything He does is ordered to the fulfillment of His mission leading up, of course, to His Passion, Death and Resurrection, the Paschal mystery, the central event in the life of Jesus and in the history of the universe.

From a purely human point of view, it is quite remarkable that this man may endure all that suffering with resignation, without uttering threats or insults but expressing through it all a deep love, compassion and forgiveness for those who were putting Him through that crucible.

The contemplation of a heroic act such as the Passion cannot leave us unfazed. It challenges us and elicits a response from each one us much like the centurion, who in the face of such heroic behavior cannot help but exclaim that there is something unique about this man.

Naturally, what is unique about Him is the fact that He truly is the Son of God. He is God the Son who embraces our humanity and enters into solidarity unto death with us, to redeem us, to ransom us from the power of sin and death, that by worshipping Him, confessing Him, following Him, listening to Him and living as He lived, even as we encounter suffering in our lives as He did, we may come to share in His own life and love every single day of our lives and for all eternity.

Fr. Roberto M. Cid