Palm Sunday, Year B

Mark 15: 1-39

1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. 2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.“You have said so,” Jesus replied. 3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed. 6 Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

 9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them. 13 “Crucify him!” they shouted. 14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” 15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Reflection, by Fr Aldo, sx

Let us appreciate some aspects of the way Mark narrates to us the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ!

  1. One first detail which is important is the fact that in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus reprimands neither Judas nor Peter even if one betrays him with a kiss and the other moves with violent gestures. While the other gospels narrate that Jesus said something to Judas and to Peter, Mark, on the contrary, presents a Jesus who accepts silently everything and concludes with the saying: “Let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” Mark seems to say that Jesus does not become bitter because of the facts and difficult circumstances he has to go through. Jesus is going through the pains that afflict the whole human race. We too can pray that God may spare us from certain difficult situations in life, but we too must learn how to sacrifice ourselves when needed without filling our hearts with bitterness.
  2. All the evangelists tell that the disciples run away when they noticed that Jesus was not reacting or fighting back. But Mark narrates a detail that probably has a catechetical purpose: “But a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” This detail reminds us of the apostles who had left everything behind and followed Jesus. The blind man of Jericho after having his sight restored, threw away his cloak so to run faster along the way. Now as the disciples realize that at the end of the journey what is required from them is the gift of their own lives, they leave everything behind, not to follow on the way, but to escape. How do we react when life puts us to the test?
  3. All the Gospels tell us that after an initial enthusiasm, the crowds abandon Jesus and only the twelve apostles remain with him. And even those, when the moment comes to make the final choice, run away and Jesus remain alone. But none of the gospels emphasize so much the loneliness of Chris as Mark does. The other evangelists try to place during the passion someone who would stand by Jesus like an angel at the Gethsemane; the wife of Pilate during the process; a group of women along the way to Calvary; the mother; the beloved disciple; the “good thief,” etc. Mark however underlines that Jesus was completely abandoned and his final words were: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  People who try to live coherently with their faith might at times feel isolated and left abandoned. They can find answer to their questions as they look at Jesus in the way he is portrayed by Mark.
  4. Jesus remains silent almost all the time during the process. In life there are two kinds of silence: one that is sign of weakness and lack of courage; the silence of the cowards. The other is the silence that expresses the fortitude of spirit; it is the one that refuses provocation and is not bothered by arrogance, insult and slander. By not reacting Jesus shows that he is sure that he is on the side of the truth and is confident that his cause will triumph. Happy are those who refuse to applying illegal means in their struggle; those who do not feel crushed even when the enemy wins, for such victory is ephemeral anyway.
  5. The climax of the story is reached when the Roman soldier proclaims at the foot of the cross: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” This is the answer to the question that accompanied the whole Gospel, “who is Jesus?” And was not proclaimed neither by a disciple nor by a miracle beneficiary, but by a foreign soldier. This centurion represent each person who converts and comes to believe in Jesus not because they were benefited by miracles, saw earthquakes or darkness in the sky,  but because they grasp the meaning of giving oneself totally out of love. Out of this realization comes authentic faith in Christ.

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