Palm (Passion) Sunday at Mississippi Abbey

Scripture Readings:  Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Lk 22:14 – 23:56

On the 2nd Sunday of Lent I promised that today we would learn the two reasons why Christ in Gethsemane would allow the condition of personal powerlessness as He faced His passion.

It was said that we imitate Christ in deciding the conditions we will allow. We will allow situations over which we have no control, over which we will have no decision to make. And they will be situations that matter. We will do this for two reasons which we see in Luke’s story of Christ’s agony on the Mount of Olives/Gethsemane. (We must remember that “agony/agonia” as Luke uses it does not refer to intense pain, but rather to a severe interior struggle. It is a struggle we are all familiar with: what to love and how much to love it, and our conviction of which will should prevail: God’s or one’s own.)

The two reasons Christ had for allowing the condition of powerlessness are: 1. Total and unwavering love for God above everything else, including self and safety; 2. Total and unwavering conviction that God’s will is best for the whole universe. How did He get these? Faithfulness in small things and constant prayer. In short, He denied Himself.  And He required this of His disciples. In self-denial, God is at our center and self is moved to the periphery as we give total attention to the Lord. We cannot easily do this, but we can decide, as He did, that it is the direction we want our life to go.

Jesus’ two reasons and our directional decision come from the deepest part of one. This is the part we presume we share with others in our religion. It matters…it matters most. We trust that the church, temple, or religious community is a safe place to expose our deepest interior. It is distinct from surface exterior things like being captain of a sports team or hired for a job. Fr. Michael Casey has written that “I feel diminished, even violated and enraged, when others deal only with my outer person and make no effort to communicate at the level of the heart.” This is what religious leadership did to Jesus. It will (and has) happened to His disciples. His two decisions did not spare Him the pain of betrayal, but it did move Him forward. Are we ready?  

The issue here is “readiness.” Jesus’ readiness is based on His profound, unquestioning love for the Father and His total confidence in the Father’s intentions. In Luke 22:35-36 today, Jesus calls His disciples to the same readiness.