March 28: Passion Sunday. Readings: 1. Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm: 22; 2. Philippians 2:6-11; Gospel: Mark 14:1 – 15:47.
This is one of the truly memorable Sundays in the annual liturgical calendar. And today, it is especially Mark’s Passion Narrative that captures our imagination.
The Isaiah reading provides a short and striking introduction to the main reason for this day of solemn celebration. In view is the prophet’s risky vocation. Isaiah honestly voices the daunting prospect of being subjected to violence in the act of proclaiming God’s message. For him, therefore, it is the powerful Word of God that equips him with strength to endure great suffering, while exercising his duty. This, of course, aptly prepares us for the action performed by the greatest of all prophets, Jesus.
The much-cited hymn from Philippians as our second reading acts as a kind of stepping-stone to the Markan Passion account. Paul’s hymn poetically and beautifully recites the story of the Incarnation. At its heart is the crucifixion’s sheer and awesome reality and meaning. Jesus Christ the Lord is truly an extraordinary Saviour, in whom we can have supreme confidence.
There are many things to attract our attention in Mark’s Passion Narrative. But it is his presentation of Jesus as the crucified King that looms large throughout. Denials aplenty, and a dramatic betrayal by Judas, serve to illustrate the dark side of the human condition. And despite the gloom that descends upon the world because of the sad and horrible particulars of Jesus’ death, a glimmer of hope is signalled by constant reference to Jesus’ kingship. And that is complemented by the respect that Joseph of Arimathea shows for Jesus’ body. The Markan Passion Narrative ends by leaving us with a great sense of the completed action Mark’s Jesus had set out to achieve.
This is a Sunday to be celebrated. It is a day to remember the Lord’s Passion and to anticipate what follows it.