The Lord needs a colt this Palm Sunday, and equally as important he needs someone to do him the favour of going to get one. St. Ignatius believed that humble service was essential. Our lives must be for others, for the greater good of the world. In today’s readings, the example of such service is seen throughout the Gospel, either in epic fails or heart-stopping successes.
The First Reading from Isaiah is the passage from the Suffering Servant, who willing gives his body to help God’s plan unfold. Most of us will never be asked for such an extreme sacrifice. In Psalm 22 we see a righteous man who agrees to be this person for others and who readily agrees to praise God’s name despite the shame brought on him. Philippians gives us the model in Christ who emptied himself and took on the form of a slave. He was obedient, dying on a cross, to show that the glory belongs to God.
The lengthy Gospel of Mark perhaps shows us human examples of courage and frailty when we try to be for others. The story opens with a woman who anoints Jesus with costly ointment in a beautiful gesture of love and service. Then there is Judas Iscariot who does not live for others but his own greed and sacrifices his relationship with Christ for his own gain. Two of the disciples do the Lord’s bidding and arrange for the Passover celebrations. As they set out for the Mount of Olives, Jesus warns them that they will desert him. Peter attempts to be loyal but will not be able to stand by his friend in his hour of need. In fact, as they gather, all of the disciples choose sleep over the gift of presence. Each one does not know what to say to him when he returns.
Further on, Simon of Cyrene needs to be compelled to carry the cross of the One who needs no compelling to help us with our crosses. He takes each and every one of our crosses, gently, silently, and constantly. He never chides us or keeps count. What he does is keep carrying it for us. This is our model.
Finally, we are left with the women at the foot of the cross. Those who were for others throughout the ministry of Jesus remain loyal. They were the ones in the background, making meals, washing clothes, providing for Jesus and the men. The shy ones, the feisty ones…the faithful ones. These women knew about service to and for others. Their ability to stand at the foot of the cross should come as no surprise. Joseph of Arimathea joined them when it was safe to. Maybe their courage even emboldened him to step out of his comfort zone into the spotlight to serve the Christ in an act that would go down in history. Taking down the body from the cross, he laid it in a tomb.
Who knows what will happen when we step out into a world in great need? What is it, this Holy Week, that you are being asked to do? How can you become a person who with great humility serves those in need? Take some time to pray before we revisit this reading on Friday and see what is on your heart. What might Christ be wanting from your heart as we conclude the journey to the cross later this week?