How could a day that begins so triumphantly end so brutally? Today we see and hear of crowds glorifying Jesus, singing praise to Jesus and end up on the next day to screaming for his death. It is a lesson on how easily we back away from defending our beliefs.
It is a story of God’s love, but that love is hidden in a horrible tragedy. What are we to glean from the readings on this day? During my time at the seminary and after being assigned to a parish I was reminded that on this day our homilies were to be either very short or not at all. The gospel read at the blessing of the palms and the passion reading are enough was the message we were taught.
But are we truly listening for the message? Has the readings and what we do on this day become so familiar, that we day dream instead of listen to them with our heart. This is one very good reason why we should be reading the scriptures daily. Read God’s word so our minds can be transformed by God speaking to our hearts. Read what is said to us by God in the scriptures; study them so we gain more than intellectual knowledge of God. On this day there is so much going on that we can easily miss much of what God wishes us to know. We in one way have become like Peter and are sleeping while Jesus has invited us to join him.
It would be much better for us if we could have an entire retreat on the fourteenth chapter of Mark’s gospel. But we do not have that luxury so let’s us look closely at one person that is essential in understanding God and how to relate to Jesus. That person is Peter; uneducated, impulsive, outspoken and often confused about the things he sees and hears as a disciple. It is easy to see ourselves in Peter for we are often as unknowing, confused and as impulsive in our journey into the heart of God.
Peter is in that upper room after the jubilant reception of Jesus by the people of Jerusalem. He listens intently at all the things Jesus talks about that evening and is steadfast that he will never ever deny his allegiance to Jesus. After all he was a disciple called to follow; he was called the rock on which the church is to be built; he was called to be present with him as his divinity was revealed.
Like Peter we are called to experience the same things in our spiritual journey. We may not be as vocal about our never denying our own discipleship, but we certainly would never deny being baptized, church going, believing Christians. Yet if we submit our lives to be examined we would find that there are many days when we could be more vocal and more visible in standing up for what we believe. Yes we do deny Jesus far too many times by failing to stand up against those who mock the very moral and ethical values we are believe in.
Peter leaves that upper room and is invited to spend some time with Jesus at a critical moment as he struggles to submit to God’s plan for our salvation. Peter missed witnessing the human struggle to follow God’s will. He missed finding out by watching and praying with Jesus exactly how submission to God’s will allows God to provide what we need to follow. In the same way, we often are not alert at the moment Jesus is trying to get our attention. How like us not to understand the urgency to be doing what Jesus invites us to be doing. We far too many times are sleepwalking while we are in the presence of Jesus. Far too many times we are on automatic pilot – going to church, doing our good works. We miss out by not understanding that we are called to something even greater than being church goers and works doers – we are called to be with Jesus as disciples.
Peter is there when Jesus is arrested and today’s gospel says a bystander draws a sword to ward off the arrest. John’s gospel puts that sword in the hands of Peter. Why is this important to us who held the sword? Like Peter we often get excited and riled up about things that attack our beliefs. At that moment Peter is bold because he knows the power of Jesus. He has seen Jesus silence stone throwing Pharisees, raise the dead, walk on water, battle demons and challenge those in authority. Like Peter we are willing to fight back while in the safety of others who share our views. The question for us is if we are always willing to stand up and take on those who mock our beliefs? Will we stand alone against those who demean our morality and encourage us to deny Christ by our unwillingness to stand up for being a believer?
Peter is bold at that moment in the garden but not the next time we see him. He is hiding in the shadows, keeping out of sight but still following Jesus at a distance. This is an accurate picture of us and how we follow Jesus. We are willing to follow but not openly; we stay safely at a distance. If we get out of the shadows someone may recognize us and identify us as Christians. What would happen to us when that happens? The hostility of the crowd would truly make us feel threatened.
This entire day is about how we like those on the morning of this day easily glorify Jesus. It is easy to get caught up in the majesty of the celebration without understanding what Jesus was doing that day in Jerusalem. Jesus was submitting to the horror of death by crucifixion. His coming was always about the shedding of his blood for my sins and yours.
God did not call us to follow him safely from a distance. We are called to openly proclaim him as Lord by the way we live each and every day.