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Passion Sunday – year C

In today’s gospel
Jesus rode the crest of public approval
as he rode down the mountain
to Jerusalem.

The disciples were very impressed.
The Pharisees and the Sadducees realized that
they had underestimated
this simple Galilean teacher.

He went to the temple
in the very center of the Jewish faith
and began to teach and preach.

Jesus came to Jerusalem
neither excited nor deceived
by the applause of the crowds.

As we have heard
during the last few weeks of Lent
Jesus knew what would happen to him.

He even knew,
as we heard in today’s story of Peter’s denial,
that his closest disciple and friend
would claim not to know him
and would put him to the test.

In both popular acclaim
and in denial and rejection
Jesus made it plain to everyone
that he was not ruled
by the feelings or events of the minute.

But rather,
he was walking step by step
along a path
which would lead him
to the only source
of true and lasting meaning for him
and ultimately for us.

He knew that he was moving towards
the fulfillment of God’s will, for him
and through him for the world.

It didn’t matter
if the path seemed to reach a peak
from which there was no way to go but down.

Jesus knew that his goal was not
the top of the mountain,
not popularity or power or applause.

Equally, it did not matter to him
that the path seemed to lead into, and end,
in the valley of the shadow of death.

Although he would have willed for himself
some other course,
only if that course,
could still be true to the will of the Father –
the will that he accepted as perfect.

No.

Regardless of appearances,
regardless of the popularity that Jesus found,
and regardless of the suffering
that he knew he would undergo,
Jesus chose to be true to his mission,
he chose to be obedient;

knowing, hoping and praying that
regardless of what might happen,
he would be upheld, surrounded
and encompassed by the presence,
the mercy, and the love of God.

It is a lesson for all of us to remember.

If we depend upon the events of life
to give us reward and satisfaction,
then we may never achieve them,
or we may have them snatched away
in the very moment of tasting victory.

We may be at the peak of our lives,
with money, health, security and friends,
but – in those terms
there is nowhere to go but downhill
in the weeks, months and years ahead.

On the other hand,
we – like Christ –
have the opportunity to walk
our own unique path of obedience,
toward God.

It is a path which may see us
surrounded by enjoyment,
possessions, and popularity.

Or it may lead us into loneliness,
misunderstanding and poverty.

But none of these things will finally
give life its meaning.

Up hill or down,
it is the destination which counts.
And no one’s life can be more well spent
than in seeking to find and do God’s will.

Because, after all,
the journey from Palm Sunday to Good Friday
wasn’t just a good news, bad news joke.

There was the final good news
which has redeemed it all,
and which reminds us
that God can take any situation –
no matter how bad it seems,
and make it into good news for all of us.

Practically everyone has known
the taste of Palm Sunday,
some type of success and popularity.

And nearly all of us have tasted
the bitterness of Good Friday,
some form of failure or rejection.

What saves us
from an endless round of ups and downs,
what frees us from the tyranny of events
over which we have no control
is our commitment to press forward
in obedience to God.

It is trust in God’s love
to bring about Easter morning,
knowing that the meaning of life
is to be found
in the knowledge and love of God.

And in sharing
that knowledge and love
with those who accompany us on the way.

From Sunday to Thursday
Jesus was unstoppable.

His enemies tried to trick him several times,
but to no avail.
Each time he turned the tables on them
and exposed their treachery.

And of course,
during this same time
Jesus established the greatest new commandment,
the one that says:
“Love one another.
As I have loved you,
So you must love one another.”

The life and death of Jesus
Tells us in the most powerful way possible
What Jesus told us during his lifetime:

“The greatest love
a person can have for his friends
is to give his life for them.”

In our era of painkillers
And instant gratification,
We expect everything to be pain free.

But Jesus says:
“If anyone wants to come with me,
he must take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

Let us close
With a familiar prayer:

“Lord, teach us to love,
as you have loved us;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labor and not to ask for reward,
except to know that we do your will.”
Amen.

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