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April 10, 2022

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (C)

A fool for Christ?

By Bernadette Phillips. LUKE 22:14 – 23:56

I remember attending a retreat many years ago, while I was an undergrad at The UWI. One Friday evening during Lent, a small group of us from the Chaplaincy travelled up to Toco, where we spent a wonderful weekend of fellowship and fun.

It was close to both Palm Sunday and April Fool’s Day, and as we reflected on the Passion and death of Jesus, the facilitator posed this question: “Will you be a fool for Christ?”.

I don’t recall receiving any profound insights during that weekend, but I have never forgotten the question.

From His birth in a humble stable among animals, to His shameful death on a cross, Jesus’ entire earthly life is a compendium on humility. Humility may be defined as “the virtue of restraining our disordered desire to exalt ourselves”.

It is the exact opposite of pride, one of the deadly sins. Humility is what keeps us grounded, as its Latin root (humilitas = humus/earth) suggests.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes humility as the “foundation of prayer” (#2559).

All the Passion narratives describe in graphic detail how Jesus was abused and treated like a fool by those in authority. Yet, as Isaiah in the First Reading says, referring to Jesus: “For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away. I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard. I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.”

In Luke’s account, after Jesus’ capture, not only did the guards beat Him, mock Him, and heap insults on Him, but they blindfolded Him and challenged Him to “play the prophet” and say who hit Him!

From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, O Jesus . . .* The scribes and chief priests were loud in their denunciation of Jesus. They falsely accused Him of “inflaming the people with his teaching,” stirring up trouble, and of “opposing payment of the tribute to Caesar”. The only accusation which was true was that Jesus claimed to be the Christ, the Promised One of God, which He was!

From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me, O Jesus . . .* Jesus then allows Himself to be taken from “pillar to post” so to speak.  First, He appears before the council of the scribes and chief priests, who then take Him before Pilate, the Roman governor who had the power to pass the death sentence.

But Pilate insisted that he could find “no case” against Jesus, so he sent Him off to Herod, the ruler of Galilee, Jesus’ home territory.

Luke records that Herod was “delighted to see Jesus” because he had heard about His miracles and hoped that Jesus would do a few “tricks” for him. Herod spent some time questioning Him, but Jesus refused to play the role of court jester and answered Herod not a word. Frustrated at Jesus’ silence, Herod and his guards then “treated him with contempt and made fun of him . . . and sent him back to Pilate.”

From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, O Jesus . . .* Pilate reiterates his position: “. . . the man has done nothing that deserves death”, but the bloodthirsty mob would have none of that, and “as one man they howled, ‘Away with him! Give us Barabbas!’”. And so, a murderer’s sentence is repealed, and the Author of Life is condemned to an ignominious death.

From the desire of being preferred over others, deliver me, O Jesus . . .* Jesus endured mockery and ridicule right down to the end. Even one of the criminals who was crucified with Him taunted Him: “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us as well.”

From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, O Jesus . . .* Jesus truly became a fool to save us from eternal death. Will I be a fool for Him?  Will you?

Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine . . .

*Intercessions taken from the Litany of Humility

The gospel reflections for April are by Bernadette Phillips of the St Joseph parish in Scarborough, Tobago.