Embracing Self-Emptying

Contempt for Prophets!
Fr. Justine J. Dyikuk

Shikrot Mpwi – Sunday Synopsis with Fr. Justine J. Dyikuk

Palm/Passion Sunday – April 02, 2023

Readings: Is. 50:4-7; Ps 22:8-9.17-18a.19-20.23-24(R.2a); Phil. 2:6-11;

Gospel – Matthew 26:14-27:66.

Theme: Embracing Self-Emptying

Sunday Synopsis

In the first reading, the Prophets Isaiah reveals the suffering servant as one who willingly offers his back to those who stroke him and his cheeks to those who tore at his beard. The second reading presents Jesus as a humble servant who although was in the form of God, did not count equality with him a thing to be grasped. The gospel discloses the Passion of the Lord according to Saint Matthew. Palm Sunday liturgy invites us to take lessons in Jesus’ suffering as a sign of love while embracing humility and self-emptying.

Introduction

Friends in Christ, another Passion Sunday is here. Palm or Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. It reminds us of the messianic triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to face his blessed passion and so enter his glory. Today’s liturgical ceremony is meant to concretize our hope. This is because palms are signs that we are willing to march with Jesus not only in moments of triumph and glory, but also in times of fall and agony.

As we go in procession with the palms today, we are urged to proclaim Christ as our messiah without fear. Therefore, I would like us to reflect on the theme: “Embracing Self-Emptying.” The theme is so chosen because Christ faced his passion as a humble servant who is willing to lay down his life for his flock as we read in the Passion Narrative.

Background & Summary of the Readings

In the first reading (Is. 50:4-7), the Prophets Isaiah speaks about the suffering servant as one who willingly offers his back to those who stroke him and his cheeks to those who tore at his beard. He doesn’t turn away from insults and spittle but depends on God as his helper. Finally, he says: “I have set my face like a flint, I know I shall not be shamed.”

The second reading (Phil. 2:6-11) presents Jesus as a humble servant who although was in the form of God, did not count equality with him a thing to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant; being born in the likeness of men. He further notes that he was humbler yet to accepting to death on the cross, but God raised him up and gave him a name which is superior to all other names under heaven. That is why, he also states, every knee must bend, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. The gospel presents the Passion of the Lord according to Saint Matthew (Matt. 26:14-27:66).

Passion Sunday: Some Theological Insights

1. Jesus’ Suffering is a Sign of Love: In John 15:13, we are told: “No greater love can a man have than to lay down his life for his friends.” This sacrificial act of love reveals God’s love for humanity and the reason for Christ’s passion.

2. Jesus’ Suffering is an Invitation to Love: The scripture says: “Love one another, just as I have loved you” (John 15:12). The love which Jesus demonstrates further invites us to love one another as Christ has loved us.

3. Jesus’ Suffering is a Revelation about Love: Mark 8:34 reveals: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” This scripture discloses the depth of love God has for humanity. This covenantal love is equally expected of Christians.

While the liturgy reveals Jesus as the Lead Actor in this tragic episode, other actors or extras can be viewed as prisoners:

1. Pilate was imprisoned by his own weakness.

2. Priests (The High) were controlled not by the Truth but by their lust for Jesus’ blood.

3. Peter was imprisoned by his own weakness.

4. Judas ended his life as the prisoner of his helplessness.

Pastoral Lessons

1. Look Beyond the Cross: Christians who give up easily in life because of the lure of a cross-less Christianity propagated by fake pastors who are advancing their own kind of “gospel,” are charged to realize that there can never pain without gain, seat without sweet, vanquish without a victor, cross without a crown, and tomb without triumph.

2. Be Wary of Temporal Power: While those in political authority especially in our country are sometimes carried away by power like Pilate which makes them manipulate the Truth and use power arbitrarily, we are reminded that temporal power is fleeting but only God is permanent.

3. Take Forgiveness as Sweet Revenge: While the wicked perpetrate evils such as kidnapping and violent attacks on innocent citizens in our country, our liturgy calls us to reflect on the supremacy of love other evil and forgiveness other revenge.

4. Embrace Peace: While belligerent people are called to embrace peace because it is stronger than war, they are equally urged to realise that there can never be huddles without hope.

5. Seek Humility: While we live in a world where power, arrogance and pride seem supreme, Palm Sunday liturgy challenges us to take lessons in humility and self-emptying.

Summary Lines

1. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week.

2. Palms are signs that we are willing to march with Jesus not only in moments of triumph and glory, but also in times of fall and agony.

3. Jesus’ suffering is a sign of love.

4. Jesus’ suffering is an invitation to love.

5. Jesus’ suffering is a revelation about love.

Conclusion

Christ demands humility from you as an antidote to sin and a recipe for greater feats in life. Little wonder, in our reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians 2:6-11 we are told, “Though he was in the form of God…” The word Adonia reveals Christ’s humanity and divinity. With God’s love in our hearts, we can say: “We know we will not be shamed” (Isaiah 5:7) as our first reading indicates.

I pray that God will help us to: Give and not count the cost; fight and not to heed the wounds; walk and never get tired; toil and never to seek for rest; run and never get weary; be thirsty and never seek for a drink and labour without asking for a reward except to know that we are doing his will. May the blessings of Palm Sunday lead us through the Holy Week to a Glorious Easter celebration. Amen!

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