YEAR B: HOMILY FOR PALM SUNDAY
THEME: Jesus Betrayed and Abandoned
BY: Fr. Luke Ijezie
HOMILY: Mark 11:1-10;
Today the Church celebrates the solemn entry of Jesus into the holy city of Jerusalem where he is to accomplish the whole drama of human redemption. Jesus entered the city in triumph, accompanied by an immense crowd, but he will end up being deserted and made to die a shameful death on the Cross.
This is the drama that plays out in today’s liturgy. It informs the theme of our reflection.
- One element that comes out very powerfully in the account of the passion of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is the total abandonment of Jesus by his associates. He was completely abandoned and betrayed. This feature runs through the whole account. In the final analysis, those who acknowledge him are from the ranks of people who did not know him before. The betrayal is so painful because it comes from the close associate. He tells his disciples: “One of you will betray me.” So it came to pass. In his agony in Gethsemane, we find a soul terribly disturbed: my soul is sorrowful to the point of death. He prays to the Father in this lonely state and finds that the cup of suffering has to be drunk to the dregs. No going back!
He has to suffer to accomplish the will of God. In this terrible psychological state, he finds no solidarity and empathy in his three disciples: Peter, James and John. They are all enjoying their sleep. Jesus finds he has to suffer it all alone. To make matters worse, at the critical moment of the arrest, all his disciples deserted him. A young man who followed later ran away naked when attempt was made to catch him. All these show how lonely Jesus is at the moment of his passion. The thought of Judas, one of his twelve, leading soldiers to arrest him must really be heartbreaking. This is further heightened by Peter’s threefold denial. It is a night of detrayal and denial.
We suffer most painfully from the evil our own friends and close ones inflict on us. As the psalmist would say – “If an enemy had done this….” The psalmist of Psalm 55 knew how painful it was to suffer from a close associate: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.
But it is you, my other self, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers” (Ps 55:12-14).
The feeling of abandonment which Jesus suffers reaches its height on the Cross when it appears as if God Himself had becomr an enemy by deserting him. His cry is the cry of all humanity at the point of lonely suffering: “God, my God, why have You deserted me?”
- Jesus’s experience of aloneness at suffering and death is part of the self-emptying of his nature and dignity in order to save us, as we read in the second reading of today from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Both in his nature as God and in his human nature, he relinquished the show of power and took the lowest condition in order to identify with everyone and to carry everyone along. We find a similar scenario in the first reading from Isaiah 50:4-7, which is part of the third servant song of Isaiah. Here the Servant of the Lord has to bring comfort and hope to the suffering and demoralised people of God, but he has to suffer humiliation and rejection in the process of doing this. His only consolation is that God is on his side: “For the Lord helps me; therefore I have not been confounded; therefore, I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (50:7).
The Passion of Jesus contains most of the things we suffer in our various daily experiences of life. The most painful is the suffering of betrayal and desertion, even to the extent of being deserted and betrayed by people we trust so much. The experience of Jesus encourages us to forge ahead as we are not alone. The more we feel united to him in our moments of trial and pain, the more are we joined to him in his triumph and glory. May his wounds continue to heal us in our daily experiences of betrayals, abandonments and heartbreaks!
Fr. Luke Ijezie