How could a 24 hour period 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 an indictment of us and how easily we back away from defending our beliefs.
It is also a story of God’s love but that love is hidden in a horrible tragedy.
What are we to glean from the reading of the passion on this day before we stop listening because of the length of the reading? 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 – you have heard enough.
Can that advice be true? We need to stop helping you respond to the word of God because we get bored, Are we as fickle as those who glorified him and then the next day cried out for his crucifixion. Is the message we want to send to those who visit our church today – the reading before the blessing of the palms and the readings along wiht the passion take too much time and we have better things to do today?
Can we learn something we need to hear through the readings and someone preaching instead of being bored? 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.
We should be reading God’s word so our minds can be transformed by God speaking to our hearts. We need to immerse ourselves in the scriptures and take them to heart 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 about ourselves, the gift of Jesus and God’s love. We in one way can easily become like Peter and sleep instead of accepting what Jesus has invites us to enter.
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 we could be more vocal and more visible in standing up for what we believe.
Yes we deny Jesus far too many times by failing to stand up against those who mock the very moral and ethical values we are called to live.
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 was sleeping and missed witnessing Jesus’ struggle to follow God’s will. He misses the lesson on how submission to God’s will provides us we need to do his will.
How like us to sleep while Jesus is trying to get our attention – that is the message we learned in the seminary – many today will tune us out and sleep. How like us not to understand the urgency to be doing what Jesus invites us to do in his presence. 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. Discipleship is a calling to always be doing what Jesus calls us to be doing and we cannot do that without being engaged.
Peter is there when Jesus is arrested and Mark tells us a bystander draws a sword to ward off the arrest. John’s gospel puts a name to that bystander and he is Peter. Why is it important to us who held the sword? Peter is us and we are often 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 have that same faith in the power of Jesus today. Are we 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 as a believer in Jesus and the life he offers us?
Peter was 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 easily get caught up in the majesty of the celebration we witness. We fail to understanding Jesus was submitting to the horror of death by crucifixion so our sins would be forever be forgiven and forgotten. That fact alone should make us want to openly proclaim him as Lord instead of being safe in the shadows and following at a distance.
We are called to remember the lesson of Peter and let the power of the Holy Spirit embolden us so the only thing we think about is spreading the good news. This day we celebrate not the glory of Jesus and shout his hosannas but we celebrate the glory he gave us as sons and daughters by his obedience.