Palm Sunday; Year B
His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God
but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave,
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.
But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names
so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
As we enter Holy Week, the most sacred period in the Church’s calender – and this Sunday’s 2nd reading reminds us why, nearly 2000 years later, why. It sets out in plain terms the meaning of the Paschal Mystery here and now – which hasn’t changed since St. Paul wrote this letter around 20-30 years after that First Easter.
It sets out to us that The Son was God, but that freely and chose to became Man; that he freely chose death, even crucifixion, the most brutal method of execution in the Ancient world; that The Father used this devine death to overcome the concequences of Sin; that he was ressurected and installed as King of the Universe, of the heavens and the earth and of hell to restore Glory to God. This fundementally changed what it means for a human being to live, and to die.
There is so much to say about this passage. It is believed that St. Paul incorporated an early christiological hymn in this passage – and I woudl invite you to read this out loud and feel the poetry in the passage. It is appropriate, I woudl suggest, that poetic language is used to bring out the poetic justice in the situation – the concequences of Man’s disobedience are overcome though God-Man’s obedience.
And it is fitting that this passage is the subject of our final Lenten reflection foccussed on the Sacraments. Death can be scary. Yet, if we trust in God the Father – as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane in entrusting himself to God’s Will – then we know that God can use earthly death to achieve something greater for us. Death is not the end, but an entrance into New Life.
And it is for that reason that reflection the Sacrament of the Sick (formerlly known as “Extreme Unction”) is a fitting point to end this lenten series of Sacramental relfections. As part of the rite, the sick are given the Eucharsit – refered to as ‘Viaticum’. It is quite literally ‘Food for the Journey’; a very real way of reminding us that Jesus is present with us; that he has expereicened what we are about to; that he humbled himself to accepting death, and that we should not be so proud as to fear it.
During Holy Week, the whole Church, and we as individual Christians, enter the tomb with Christ. On Thursday we cleebrate the Foundation of the Church and the Eucharist; on Friday we stand as Commemorate his death – but we know that his death is not where the story ends. We know that while we are empty and desolate for that short time on Saturday, that on Sunday we celebrate something extra-ordinary. And we do this – not only becuase God is Good and worthy of our praise – but also because it is a sign of what Christ has won for Us.