Jesus loves us with the strength of his arms and the sweat of his brow. He dies for us so that we may no longer live for ourselves but for him and others.
Loving us to the end, Jesus lays down his life for us. That is how we come to know love. It is not a matter of word or speech but of deed and truth. One loves with the strength of one’s arms and the sweat of one’s brow (SV.EN XI:32).
Effective love, yes, is what prompts Jesus to die on the cross, with arms outstretched and brow sweating blood. He does so not because torture or humiliation gives him pleasures. No, Jesus does not wish anyone to suffer or die, but to live with human dignity.
That is why he goes about doing good, teaching, preaching the Gospel, curing diseases and illnesses. His prayer shows he does not want to die. He asks the Father, “All things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.”
And, surely, the Father does not want his Son’s infinite sacrifice to appease him. As though he were a vengeful and blood-thirsty god. Were Jesus’ passion and death for appeasement, he would be saving us from God (Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season [New York, NY: The Seabury Press; Crossroad Book, 1977] 88).
But the truth is no one saves us from God. After all, without God there is no salvation. He saves us with a mighty hand and outstretched arm through him who stretches out his arms on the cross. Through him whose hands they nail to the cross.
Jesus dies crucified so that we may love likewise, with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows.
Jesus comes as Messiah King, but he is not a triumphalist. Rather, he is humble, seating on a colt. The heir to David’s throne requisitions a colt, but he returns it.
And the Suffering Servant “does not chase death, but he does not turn back either.” He is meek; he neither breaks a bruised reed nor quenches a smoldering wick. Nevertheless, he does not falter or lose courage until he establishes justice on earth.
And, yes, strong arms and hands oppose the one who denounces all pride and selfishness. Besides, his example and teachings undermine the worldly established order.
We Christians, for our part, prove ourselves through patient endurance while we pursue love and justice.
Lord Jesus, make us spend our lives for others. And may our love be infinitely inventive (SV.EN XI:131). Strengthen our work weak arms and wobbly knees; bring us to where there is sharing of fresh bread and new wine.
25 March 2018
Palm Sunday (B)
Mk 11, 1-10; Is 50, 4-7; Phil 2, 6-11; Mk 14, 1 – 15, 47