Palm Sunday year B
The Price of true love
Once upon a time, some children were asked, “what is love?” one little girl answered, “Love is when your mommy reads you a bedtime story. True love is when she doesn’t skip any pages.”
Palm Sunday, otherwise known as Passion Sunday is a true love story in which Christ deliberately undertakes the journey to Jerusalem where he will suffer and die for love of sinful humanity. The price for this unfathomable love is so evident in the prayer and agony in the garden of Gethsemane where sweat fell off Jesus’ face like great drops of blood(Mtt 26:37) He is literally crushed like grapes from which wine is produced. Gardens are supposed to be meeting places for lovers in the Scriptures. Unfortunately, in this case, all his supposed ‘lovers’ rejected him just when he needed them most. What a betrayal! Here in the garden he foresees how Judas would betray him for love of money; here in the garden he sees how the crowd would prefer a thief to him, an innocent man; there in the garden he foresees how Peter would deny him three times; there in the garden he sees how the crowd jeers at him; there in the garden he sees how Peter, James and John fall asleep when they were supposed to be awake in prayer. Alas, a bitter pill to swallow! No doubt he cries out in prayer, “Father if it is possible, take this cup away from me, but not my will, but your will be done”(lk 22:42).
The suffering is intense because it comes from his own friends and kinsmen, the same people for whom he is offering his life. The psalmist rightly says, if it were an enemy, I could bear the insult, but it is you, my own friend, the one who shared my bread, and now you turned against me(Ps 55:12) How else in the world can a man show proof of his love? There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn 15:13)
Whenever I reflect on God’s love, my elementary school song comes to mind: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so, little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong. Yes Jesus loves me.” The love of God has not changed one bit after the passion story. He still loves us with an everlasting love. He loves you, he loves me, to the point of shedding his blood for you and for me. Nobody loves you more than Jesus. He is telling you, John, Mary, Christine, I love you and I am going to die for love of you. Once, a pastor approached an elderly lady and asked why she always prayed for long hours after mass on Sundays. “Because God’s attention is divided when the church is full” she replied. She is gravely mistaken! God loves you as if you are the only one who matters. His love is unconditional, it doesn’t fade away with age, with familiarity, with infirmities. No, it is a heart to heart love that is not based on some kind of physical attraction or make- up, but on who we are, humans! He loves you just as you are; it doesn't really matter whether you are tall, short, fat, slim, long hair, short air- he loves you so.
If he loves us so much, what should be our response? First we owe him a deep gratitude for loving us despite the ugly things we do, and second, we should love him back because love should be reciprocal. This is where we often fall short-we don’t love our Savior as much as we should. Sometimes our love is seasonal, as in Christmas and Easter.
How painful, when true love meets with betrayal! Imagine how hurting it is when a spouse or a friend you love so much, betrays you. It is not different between Jesus, his disciples and his fellow Jews. But this is not time to apportion blame on those who crucified him, it is rather time to reflect on how you and me still fall short of true love for him.
Let's look at Pilate. He knew that Jesus was sinless, yet in order to protect his job, he condemned him to die. He claimed to have washed his hands, but his hands were not clean at all! How often do we trade our conscience for job security? Sometimes we bear false witness against our neighbor, remain silent in the face of evil or even encourage anti-life campaigns; all in a bid to secure our job or position.
Peter was ashamed of himself not only because he broke an important promise, but the manner in which it happened. It was a little girl who frightened him. Peter, who, ordinarily would spank that little girl, became a coward in front of her. We make similar promises to God at baptism, in marriage, yet we broke them in the face of ‘little girls’. Every time we broke such promises, seen or unseen, we are betraying Jesus.
Judas betrayed his master in the most shameful manner- with a kiss! A kiss is supposed to be a sign of love, but in Judas’ case, it was outright betrayal. So notorious that any form of dishonesty, cheating, pretense in a relationship is epitomized as Judas’ kiss. There are still people today who indulge not only in Judas’ kisses but also in casual kisses for very selfish motives. Judas has taught us that not everyone who kisses you loves you. Let us not allow ourselves to be fooled.
The crowd was just being emotional. People easily act out of emotion in the crowd, and do things that don’t reflect their values. Social pressure has taken a better part of us as we get involved in this or that activity just because everyone does it. Is what I am doing right or do I just want to conform to the crowd? Or am I simply looking for human approval? Is the additional stuff I am buying necessary, or I feel emotionally sick because I seem out of tune with fashion?
It was a jealous crowd; they praised him with their lips, but their hearts were full of jealousy and evil thoughts. The same people who hailed him, would shout ‘crucify him, crucify him.’ How often do we pretend to acclaim people when we don’t really mean it? Jealousy has a destructive force in our lives and among families and friends. When we back stab people, or wish them evil, because of jealousy, we are doing it to Jesus.
Let us seriously reflect on God’s goodness to us, and on how far away we have wondered from him because of lack of true love for God, our friends, our spouses, our church and our country. Let us then resolve to journey with him during these few days with an open heart, that we may rise with him in newness of life at Easter.