In the readings for this Sunday, March 25, God shows us what he’s made of, and we second-guess him.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
In the readings for this Sunday, March 25, we move from offering Jesus with a hero’s welcome to yelling, “Crucify him!” and putting him in a tomb. Jesus shows us what God is made of with his compassion, love and complete self-giving. We take everything he offers us gladly. And then, when things get tricky, we turn on him. The Apostles did their best to stand by him, but they couldn’t understand that what was happening to Jesus was in God’s hands. It can be very hard for any of us to remember that, no matter how bad things get, God is on our side. It’s hard to remember that, God only wants good for us. And it’s especially hard to remember that God will never let evil win. Our readings today can be a help for us in times when we might be tempted to second-guess God.
Gospel at Procession with Palms Mark 11:1-10
Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: “Hosanna!”
The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock.
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
The human heart is fickle. Today’s observation of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, followed by his arrest, passion and death illustrate our flip-floppy attitude toward God. In the Gospel at the beginning of Mass, we welcome Jesus with streamers made of palm, blessing him, honoring him with a “red carpet” made of our cloaks. We give him a king’s welcome as he gets ready to fulfill his kingly duty; to meet evil face-to-face and defend us against it. The first reading reflects his prophetic role — that he is given a “well-trained tongue” that’s used to rouse the weary— like a king’s speech before battle. Again, like the prophets, he’s beaten and killed for his words of comfort, but he takes comfort in knowing that God’s grace and forgiveness are more powerful than our small inability to embrace it.
The second reading shows the reward for his obedience — that he is exalted greatly and his name is so powerful that everyone should bow whenever they say it. Jesus didn’t need to give his life for us; it was a free gift, a choice made in perfect freedom, because he loves us that much.
Leading up to Jesus’ arrest and murder, his disciples were still second-guessing him. Why did he condone the “waste” of expensive oil when it could have been used for the poor? How could he think that they would betray him? Why would he not resist arrest? Is this — a convicted criminal, a man being put to death — really the Messiah that we hoped for?
They spent three years with him, saw his miracles, heard is teaching, shared in his mission. This event threw them into panic. They lost themselves and their courage, and they hid. How fickle is the human heart. We forget so quickly what’s important, what’s true, what’s life-giving. We turn on a dime when we’re afraid or hurt. We give up our freedom of action in favor of the oppression of reaction in moments of confusion.
But, Jesus is constant. Jesus is steadfast. Jesus is ever-present and ever-forgiving. When he’s scared to death, he goes to God for help, and is given the courage to act rightly. The Passion is an act of love, the reality of our salvation, and a model for who we can be even when our feelings would cause us to second guess God.
Are you good at making up your mind and then sticking to it? Or do you change your mind a lot about what you want?
Do I second-guess God when it looks like things are falling apart? Can I take comfort in the fact that the Apostles did, too? How can today’s readings help me to trust God even when it looks like everything is going wrong?
Am I fickle in my relationship with God? Am I fickle in my relationship with others? When I’m hurt, confused, or afraid, do I take counsel with God in prayer? Do I let God’s words rouse me to right action?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
Think about how your family can celebrate Holy Week. Can you go to your diocesan Chrism Mass, where the bishop blesses the sacramental oils that will be used throughout the year? Can you go to one (or all) of the Triduum? If the parish liturgy is out of the question, consider ways that you can mark Jesus’ Last Supper (maybe a washing of the feet at home?), Good Friday (maybe a mini-veneration of the cross at home?) and the Easter Vigil (maybe a blessing with holy water and take a look at the baptism things your children received; white garment, candle,etc.?) with your little ones at home.
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”