Join us every week for background on the Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple: We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.
This week’s several themes come to mind:
- Fulfillment of the scriptures.
- Jesus, the Suffering Servant.
- Walking with Christ to Calvary.
In this reading (read from the back of the church), Jesus enters Jerusalem. He comes to the city where he will be wrongly accused, put to death, and fulfill the mission for which He was sent. The colt Jesus demands is one without blemish and it has not been ridden. That means it was fit for sacred use. Zechariah prophesied: “Behold; your king is coming to you, a just savior is he, humble, and riding on a donkey,” (1 Kgs 1:33-44). The people knew what they saw when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. With palms in hand, they were experiencing a prophetic fulfillment happening right before their eyes. Thus the words of praise they all exclaim. “Glory in the highest!”
There are 4 “Servant Songs” in these chapters of Isaiah:
1) Isaiah 42
2) Isaiah 49
3) Isaiah 50 (we’re in this one today)
4) Isaiah 52
1st Reading: Isaiah 50: 4-7
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)
The Servant Songs describe the service, suffering, and exaltation of a figure named, “the Servant of the Lord.”
- Songs 1 and 2 name Israel as “the servant.” This servant failed in its mission.
- Songs 3 and 4 talk about the Messiah to come; this “servant” faithfully completes all the work He is given to do.
This reading and the psalm are vivid and intense. They usher us into the deep pain we will read about in the gospel as Christ is crucified. We are invited to see the relationship between God the Father and Israel (his chosen son).
- In the Old Testament, God provided for and protected his Chosen Son, Israel.
- In the New Testament, God calls His Chosen Son Jesus to take on the sins of all people – past, present and future.
- A loving and protective Father hates when his son is picked on or bullied. He wants to shield him. He wants to toss all enemies aside. Think about this as you listen.
- We are hearing the Old Testament prophecy of what the Messiah will face when Christ travels to Calvary. The servant in this servant song is Christ. He will take on the sins of Israel plus the Gentiles. Beaten and bloodied, He willingly takes upon himself the guilt of us all. That is a love that knows no bounds.
Response Psalm 22: “My God, my God Why Have You Abandoned Me?”
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)
The sadness in this psalm is palpable. How unbelievable that this Old Testament writing so perfectly matches what Jesus experiences on the cross. The psalm talks of “Israel” being saved; Jesus will save both Israel and the Gentiles. The Old Testament clearly predicts the New.
2nd Reading: Philippians 2: 6-11
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters. It speaks to how the early church spread the Word of Christ after his passion, death and resurrection).
Paul wrote to the church in Philippi – a people who were retired Roman military. They had fought in battle after battle for an earthly commander. Paul writes to this audience using beautiful military imagery and calls them to be soldiers for their Heavenly Commander, God.
The takeaway for me in this reading has to do with the phrase:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Jesus rights all of Adam’s wrongs from the garden. Everything Adam (and Eve) did wrong that got us into this whole mess – Jesus corrects.
- Eve grasped for the fruit of the tree so that she could acquire equality with God. She disobeyed, and Adam her spouse, did nothing to stop her.
- Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped. Jesus obeyed, and reversed the damage of original sin by sacrificing his life for us. He righted Adam and Eve’s wrong.
GOSPEL: MARK’S ACCOUNT OF THE PASSION
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)
There’s so much here to unpack, so I offer a few thoughts.
- We hear at the beginning, the story of the woman with the alabastar jar who anoints Jesus’s head with oil. The very expensive, nearly priceless oil – she give her ALL to Jesus. In what ways do we give our all to Jesus, and in what ways do we hold back? Salvation and abundant blessing is Christ’s promise to us when we do give our all.
- Peter denied Christ three times. We all deny Christ in small ways, sometimes big ways. God’s mercy is endless and without limits. When we come to him with contrite hearts to touch his cloak, our sins are but a drop of water in his ocean of mercy. A drop of water! One of the precepts of the Church is to make a good confession once a year. Find out where you can attend confession before Easter in your city or town.
- 3. We’re called to walk the journey with Jesus when we stand and hear this gospel. Take time today and this week to travel with Christ. Don’t become overwhelmed by details and scriptural knowledge; just walk with Him. Ask Him to reach you with whatever part of His passion he wants to. Ask Him, “Lord, what shall I take from this reading today? What thought exercise do I need in my life? Lord grant me the ears to hear and the eyes to see. I want to fully experience this journey with you. Hold my hand and I’ll hold yours, show me the way to a deeper love with you this Holy Week. I want only to remain by your side.”
Then wait, and listen. May God bless your Holy Week.