Palm Sunday 2021
B – Mark
One year ago yesterday, during a moving ceremony in Rome, Pope Francis blessed the world wounded by the pandemic. Many of us have seen images of our Holy Father walking alone towards the altar on St Peter’s place, raising the monstrance with the Eucharistic Host and making a great sign of the Cross. There could not have been a more suggestive expression of the need we have of the blessing of the Cross – at all times, but most especially in the present circumstances.
We bless with the sign of the Cross because the Cross is a blessing – indeed, the supreme blessing. Certainly, the cross in itself, as a means of execution, was a curse. It meant terrible sufferings and an atrocious death; it was a sign of shame, guilt, and disgrace. Jesus, though, did not turn backward. He gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to those who pulled out his beard; he did not hide his face from shame and spitting; he humbled himself and was made obedient unto death, even the death on a cross. He was derided by those who passed by ,and those who were crucified with him also reviled him. He entered such darkness as to express with a loud cry a feeling of abandonment: “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”
It would seem that anyone with a human heart witnessing such a scene would ask for it to cease as soon as possible: “Stop it, this is too much, we cannot bear it”. Mysteriously, this is not the impression which Jesus’ death made on the onlookeers. “When the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God’.” In the midst of terrible sufferings, Jesus managed not only to die with dignity, but, if I may say so, with ‘divinity’. There was definitely in his death something beyond the ordinary level of our human capacities. It was not, like Socrates’ death, a sublime demonstration of serenity and detachment. It involved indeed a terrible weakness that St Mark does not want to hide at all, simply because this weakness is not a problem. Jesus was not showing off human greatness, but revealing God’s power; and God’s power is made perfect precisely in human weakness.
Whenever man is weak and reaches the end of his strength, there is no other solution than to let God take over from us and act on another level, with another kind of power. To this power, we give the name of love – divine love. Jesus’ Cross is the revelation of divine love in human weakness: Jesus’ weakness and ours. They are one and the same. Jesus is weak in us, but strong in His Father’s love. Jesus is weak for us, in order to give us access to His Father’s power of love for bringing about reconciliation and redemption, and to give resurrection and life.
Such is the blessing of the Cross. By the Cross, the divine power of love reaches us in our weakness, in our powerlessness. The encounter between Jesus on the Cross and any form of suffering is love-giving and life-giving. It is a blessing. Today, during the week ahead, we adore the Cross and we let the Cross bless us, thus confessing that the weakness of God is stronger than men. Our suffering world needs Jesus Christ, and him crucified because we need to learn to rely not on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God, the power of His life-giving, eternal Love which Jesus manifested in the weakness of the Cross.