It is strange to sit in quarantine and unable to go to mass. Thank goodness I have the Word Among Us to read thru each day – it’s like a quick version of mass, well at least half-mass.
And on Palm Sunday, aka the notoriously long Sunday, it was kind of a gift to sit down on my own and read the readings rather than constantly tell a too-young-to-get-it kid that “No, mass isn’t over yet.”.
There was a deepness to my reading of the Gospel today — Matthew 26:14-27:66 — And I think it’s because I could sit with it for as long as I wanted and re-read sentences as much as I needed. I caught myself reading 3 sentences then thinking “Wait. Go back. Let that sink in.”
In doing this several things stood out… Which I will recap now:
- Judas has just betrayed him. What does Jesus do? Jesus greets Judas with “Friend, do what you have come for.” Jesus calls Judas “Friend”!! Frankly, if I was being betrayed by my friend I don’t think the word “friend” would come to my lips. How amazing it is — how deep is Jesus’ love and forgiveness! Even in this moment he honestly and sincerely calls Judas his friend.
- “Then all the disciples left him and fled.” :: How alone Jesus was. That line made my heart hurt so much. Jesus’ deepest and truest friends not only left him, but they fled from him!! I was filled with utter sadness.
- “Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done.” — This was perplexing. What did Judas think was going to happen?? People don’t give you lots of money for betraying someone to then just be like “Oh nevermind. Let him go. I no longer care about this.” Judas felt remorse — and rightly he should have. But it was so weird to think about Judas deciding to betray Jesus then seemingly being upset that Jesus suffered consequences because of it. It’s a headscratcher. :: One can sin and regret it, but Judas’ sinned with such planning and knowledge — and then somehow was surprised by its effect? Sure I sin plenty, but I don’t think I’ve ever put so much planning into a sin and then got surprised by its sinfulness… Or am I supposed to realize from this that this is exactly what I do when I sin. ...Okay, so this is a thinker then…
- Every year I hate having to shout “Barabbas!” at mass. For awhile I thought “That was others, that isn’t me asking for Barabbas over Jesus.” But then at some other point I realized that every time I sin it is like I’m shouting “Barabbas!” instead of choosing Jesus. Ouch. …While I hate shouting “Barabbas!” at Palm Sunday mass it is beautiful – beautiful in that God gives me a cringey reminder that I am very failed and very much need Jesus for salvation!
- “Weaving a crown out of thorns, they paced it on his head and a reed in his right hand… They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head.” Jesus is given a reed to hold and then promptly it is taken away and not only taken away but then used to beat him. I imagined how Jesus willingly accepted the reed though he did not want it and then willingly gave up the reed — he did not fight the injustice. He took these unfair blows – out of love and obedience to God — but out of LOVE for me! …obviously his whole passion is this, but this reed really stuck out to me this year — and I don’t think I ever before made the connection between hailing Jesus with a reed for Palm Sunday and then turning right around and using that reed to beat him.
Have I fully appreciated Jesus’ sacrifice? I like to think I have. But when I have these moments of reflection and encounter it makes me feel like I haven’t – that I never have really grasped his sacrifice. And I know I won’t ever “get it” as much as I’m supposed to get it — so it’s all the more beautiful to think of how great a love Jesus had for me at the time of his passion – even though I fail at understanding that love today. Jesus is my Lord and Savior! Jesus is the Christ! Jesus is someone who would call me Friend even though I don’t deserve it.