Palm Sunday_Passion Sunday

I love ‘ensemble stories’ – you know books, plays, films where we see a number of different characters reacting within a story. When we look at the Passion Narratives, especially Mark’s, we miss the point if we focus solely on Jesus’ suffering and death. In fact, the Narratives make little of Jesus’ physical suffering. More emphasis is placed on how people react to Jesus. This is an especial feature of Mark’s account.

His Passion account proper begins with the unnamed woman, lavishly pouring costly ointment over Jesus’ head. Somehow, she has recognized what all the other disciples have missed: Jesus is going to his death. She gives a most precious gift in response to his most precious gift. At the end of Mark’s account stands the Centurion, also unnamed, who is the ultimate witness to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. This man of violence, who probably supervised the scourging, the ridicule, as well as the crucifixion proper sees ‘the Son of God’ in the ignominious failure and death. These two people stand as models of discipleship: one the faithful follower who risks ridicule to show love to Jesus; the other, a hard person transformed, converted to believer. [Living Liturgy 2015]

In between these two figures of faith, we have all sorts of other characters: scheming self-serving priests, a weak politician, frightened disciples, a cocksure Peter shamed at the crow of a cock. These people are written into the story that we might see us there. We know our weakness and failures of character. As we see ourselves echoed in the Passion Narrative, we can remind ourselves that Jesus loved these, all these, and us, to the end.

Adapted from Renew International Year B