What a waste of precious oil, Palms Sunday 2018 Year B

Friends, the blessing of palm leaves and procession with the palms are symbolic participation in Jesus' triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem to accomplish his work of redemption. The fact that the people went out to meet Jesus and spread palm leaves was a manifestation that t they regarded Jesus as the Messiah. Therefore, they rejoiced before him and acknowledged that he was he who comes in the name of the Lord. The song they sang was a tribute, a praise to him. It would seem news about Jesus and how he raised Lazarus had spread among the Greeks as well. Most of the people wanted to see Jesus. Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Since then, people began to regard him as the Messiah, the Son of David. The reason for this was that only the Messiah could conquer death and only the Messiah had power over life and death.

What we celebrate today is not a repetition of what Jesus did but a memorial of the Lord's suffering, death, and resurrection that is being made alive. It becomes a reality here and now for us. The drama that we witness today show that Christianity is a historical religion. The Christian religion is not based on individual experiences but in God's act in history, that God has actively intervened in the historical process. Here it is not a matter of speculative philosophy or systematic theology. As Christians, we must not forget this story. History has a purpose and is not given to its destiny by the divine powers. Some regard believers as those who waste time, energy and money. Some see church goers as unmodern and unreasonable people. They do not understand why we believe or go to church Sunday after Sunday. Without God's grace, no one can understand or give his life to God. Without his grace, it is impossible to realize that He is the air that we breath.  When the woman poured balm on Jesus' head in the house of Simon, the leper who of course Jesus would have healed before going to dine in his house, the people did not understand, the regarded it as a waste of precious oil. All is grace and God has chosen us to go with him to Calvary and to resurrection.

The Passion drama describes an extremely real world full of disappointments and sorrows. We are upset by the poverty, suffering and oppression in the world and dream of a world without injustice. At the same time, history also points to the hope that light has the last word. Jesus' life captures the human tragedy of living in a broken and fallen world, filled with betrayal, deception. Each character in the passion story inevitably challenges us and says something about the people of the world. Jesus, born of the Father from the beginning of time, still suffers physical death. God does not run from the cruelty of his creatures. Like a grain sown in the earth must die to rise, Jesus must die for him to live again. In the passion story, a red thread of heart-breaking human tragedy goes on. Is there hope? Is there meaning in all this? Is there a way out of injustice and darkness? Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Is there any hope beyond the grave? Are we just a product of impersonal processes? If it were true, then there would be no reason or meaning and hence no hope in human tragedy. People have always been rebels against God. Even before the angels could enter the heavens, some of them revolted against God led by Lucifer, the chief of the angels. The Scripture narrates that battle broke out and archangel Michael and most of the angels conquered the rebelling angels. The battle is ongoing in the heart of every one of us.  The Passion story affects everyone because it gives an answer to the longing, the battle for hope and meaning. Yes, there is a bright future.

Today's Passion Story from the Gospel of Mark has 119 verses. The liturgy texts today are long, so I will not address the details of it but to point to a few essential elements that can help us enter the spirit of the Holy Week. Two important characters in the passion story are Judas and Peter. There is certainly a lot of themes that could be reflected on this day. From the onset, I must mention that the name of Jesus is not just a name. It is a divine person, the coming Son of Man, whom Daniel (Dan 7: 13f) had talked about. This means that the message in the New Testament is not just an idea. The biblical faith does not tell about events as symbols of supernatural truths.

Evangelist Mark begins his narration of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem with a preparatory assignment Jesus gave to his disciples at a feast at the house Simon the leper. Jesus dines at this man’s house who lived in Bethany, a city southeast of Jerusalem. It is to be understood that Jesus had cured him, and he had arranged a feast to show his appreciation for his healing. It was while the feast was going on that a woman brought pure balm and poured it over Jesus' head. This was a waste of some sort to some people present at the occasion who thought the oil could have been sold for more than three hundred dinars who could benefit the poor.

Then Jesus took some of his apostle and came to a place called Gethsemane. The Evangelist Mark speaks of the anguish that came over Jesus, and he said to the three disciples he had taken: "My soul is sorrowful to death. Stay here and watch ". This is when Jesus meets the power of death and is pierced by the pain of the power of darkness. His mission is to fight against it and defeat it. Two people who also clearly emerge are John and Peter.

During the last supper, Juda's betrayal and Peter's denial are predicted. At the last supper, Jesus' moment has come, it is time to leave the world, it is the moment of love to the end. Jesus' moment is the moment of the great transition, the transformation and this happens through his outpouring of himself, agape. It is utterly giving himself completely. For love for the lost sheep, Jesus gives himself. Jesus fulfils a slave service for his disciples, assuming the form of a servant (Phil. 2: 7). The moment is the time when the son of Man is to be delivered in the hands of sinners. It is precisely what happens to us in this world where we are often left at the mercy of sinners. It needs be observed that it was not the politicians who seized Jesus but the religious leaders. They were the ones who put it all in motion. We do not know whether the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus knew him in person. Why did Judas otherwise need to show them who was Jesus with a kiss. There are small things in the passion story that say a lot about human nature. It is said of a young man who wanted to follow Jesus, but when the soldiers grabbed him, he fled. He ran naked. Peter who would follow Jesus to death, lacked the courage to be present at his crucifixion. It was cold in Jerusalem. We know this because it says that Peter was warming up among the high priest's servants.

The Sanhedrin tried to bring witnesses against Jesus. They failed. Many witnessed falsely about him. And among those who testified, their testimonies did not match. When the high priest asked Jesus, "Are you the Messiah, the blessed one?" He replied, "It's me and you'll see the Son of Man sitting on the right side of power and coming among the clouds of heaven." Neither Pilate nor Herod could find any crime against Jesus. Nevertheless, to preserve the trust of the people, Pilate handed him over for crucifixion. Pilate sent Jesus to Herod. The High priest and Scribes stood and accused Jesus vehemently. They insisted that Jesus must that Jesus must be crucified though Pilate wanted to let him go. The people shouted and screamed, threatened and this affected Pilate who gave in to what they needed. People sometimes make us do things against our will, even though we know that it may hurt someone. The crowd prefer Barabbas, a murderer, to Jesus. They prefer darkness to light. The same drama takes place every moment in our world, in our families, in our parishes and in our workplaces.

Jesus was whipped, and the soldiers mocked him, and this literally fulfilled what is said in the first reading. In front of Pilate, they spit upon him (Matthew 26: 67-68). No suffering will weaken his will (Hos 3: 8). Jesus puts his hope all the way in God, his father, trusting that he would never be ashamed even with the crucifixion. Daily, we need to be reminded of Jesus' example. The road to glory is always through the cross. As Christians, we have no doubt who Jesus was, God who took our nature so that we can share his divinity. It is clear to me that the mystery, life and death of all of Christ is a sacrament where he comes to us, into us through his spirit and transforms us. Only if we repeatedly let ourselves be washed by the Lord Himself, that we can be made clean, we can learn to do what He has done with us. Paul reminds of how this happens when he writes, "I live, no longer myself, it is Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). We must let ourselves be immersed in the mercy of the Lord. Thomas of Aquino says that the new law is the grace of the Holy Ghost (S. Theol. I-IIq. 106 a.1).

The Church and the Christians have an important role to play in society. Each Christian person has the task of standing up for his own beliefs and values, defending them when threatened, promoting them and collaborating with others to maintain these values. Only with a strong personal foundation, are we strong enough to stand up and not be blown away by the attractions and challenges of the world. Passion and courage for the Gospel are, unfortunately, in shortages among many Christians. Values ​​are useless unless we defend and promote them. The gospel is of no use unless it is followed by those who confess it. We cannot expect the world to be fair, but we can promote justice by starting with our own rights and obligations. We must also stand up for the rights of others. It's not just about promoting our own values, but also defending the rights and values ​​of others, even if we see them as opponents or dissidents. This is the golden rule of reciprocity. What we do not want to be done to us, we should not do to others. I give Albert Einstein the right when he says, "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who are watching, and do nothing". If atheists can stand up for what they believe in and even aggressively propagate these false values, why not the Christians and Christian values? Chikezie Onuoha MSP.

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