The Contrast by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
The Gospel reading from Mark the Evangelist for Palm Sunday blends a radical contrast between the acts of man and the acts of God. At a most critical point in the history of the world, both allow their true colors to shine and the picture is dark and dreary for man.
The actions and attitudes of the religious leaders, the Romans and the crowds reveal the depths of evil that can be present in the hearts of human beings. The blindness resulting from sin, ingratitude, pride and lack of faith leads many characters in this story to demonstrate ugly and despicable actions toward the totally Innocent One who came among us as a slave to serve and save us.
Religious leaders bring in false witnesses to condemn Godís begotten Son. The highest local Roman authority finds nothing worthy of condemnation in Jesus, yet yields to pressure from others and condemns Our Lord to death on a tree. Jesus is publicly scourged, a form of torture that He silently endures. Roman soldiers blindfold Our Lord, mock Him, spit upon his face and pummel Him with blows. Pilate condemns Him to a form of capital punishment reserved for the most notorious of criminals. Soldiers cast lots for His garments, His only earthly possessions. The chief priests and scribes swing by at the very end for a final drive-by mockery of their Creator and Lord.
Adding salt to the wound, the Lordís disciples fail miserably in this critical moment as well. Three of Jesusí closest collaborators fall asleep on Him while He, with tremendous anxiety, seeks comfort and guidance from His heavenly Father. When the temple guard comes to arrest Jesus, the apostles flee and leave Our Lord alone. One of the chosen Twelve betrays Our Lord with a kiss. Their leader denies Him thrice after vehemently promising to remain strong.
This picture of humanity is not a pretty one. It hurts. It really hurts to read and ponder these events. It hurts even more when we humbly realize that we continue to do similar things in our own day.
The contrast, however, brings light and hope to believers. In spite of our ugliness and sin, God acts very differently. Jesus remains true to Himself and to His mission to redeem, heal and give life to His beloved children.
While men act out of ignorance, anger, and selfishness. Jesus acts out of wisdom, love and generosity. While men lash out aggressively in fear, Jesus endures His passion with humility and patience. While we bring up false testimony to condemn Him, He offers excuses to the Father for our folly. While men blindly follow their broken and confused passions, Jesus consciously offers His life in loving obedience to the Father. While men allow hatred to reign in their hearts, Jesus loves us to the end. While men ignorantly condemn the Innocent One, Jesus gives His life for the guilty ones.
Yes, the contrast is stark. Jesus sheds His blood freely and generously out of love for us and a profound commitment to redeem very broken human beings.
As we ponder the events of Our Lordís passion and pray over them, our hearts ache for what happened to Him and for what we continue to do to Him today. However, our pain is transformed into joy as we also ponder how Jesus responded. May the extraordinary mystery of Jesusí passion, death and resurrection and the endless graces that flow from this mystery explode into our lives, bringing light, healing and hope.
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