“Contemplate His Passion”
April 9, 2017
Isaiah 50: 4 – 9/ Psalm 31: 1-5; 19 – 24
Philippians 2: 5 – 11/Matthew 26: 36–27: 61
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
The reflection for this Holy Week is: contemplate; listen; pay attention. God is speaking. God has been speaking to us from the start of the Mass. In fact, God has started speaking the moment we opened our eyes this morning.
This is the start of the Holy Week. Jesus emphasizes what this week is built on. He inaugurated His kingdom on the godly principles of heaven from the Trinity. He came from poor parents. His father was a carpenter and He was born in a manger in a poor town. There were no VIPS for visitors, but shepherds. When He started His ministry, they were mostly a group of ‘misfits’ with different personalities and without nobility. Their ministry had no budget and their message was radical and revolutionary. It was very much in contrast with the world’s ways.
With this Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, this Messiah that the disciples had been proclaiming chooses to sit Himself on a donkey. The Israelites thought that their Messiah should be muscular and riding on a big horse with a sword on hand. But Jesus donkey was so small and it symbolized peace. The kingdom of peace was what Jesus was establishing. He inaugurated a kingdom of peace, meekness, humility and servanthood.
In a parallel narrative in Luke 19, in His entry to Jerusalem, people were shouting, “Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord.” He entered and said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if you have known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” Jesus was saying, “Jerusalem, you did not recognize the time of your visitation because you did not contemplate. You did not listen while I was shouting and while I was teaching the way of peace, of humility, of non-violence.”
In the song “Upon This Rock,” it says, “In a simple character, you see the Son of God, if you would choose to lose than be with men. If you would give Your life away for nothing in return, then, you are where My kingdom begins.” The Kingdom is founded on choosing to lose; choose to give your life away; choosing to go the way of the beatitudes; giving your other cheek when somebody strikes you; walking the extra mile; giving your shirt when somebody takes your coat. It is losing your life, giving, and dying.
The Old Testament reading says, “I gave my back to those who struck me. I have my cheek to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.” Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. He was not tall; He was not muscular. In fact, Isaiah said that He had no stately form; He had no majesty. He failed man’s standards. He was the stone that the builders rejected because He did not make their standards, but He turned out as the Chief Cornerstone, and the foundation of the Kingdom was on solid rock.
Today, our standards are different. Sometimes, in order for us to be encouraged about strength and power, we need to see images for our faith to be stirred up. Power is perfected in weakness. David was the least among his brothers, the youngest, and not as majestic as his brother. If our image was like that of Goliath or David’s brothers or Absalom, who was head and shoulders taller than any man in Israel, then, the masses will not be able to relate with them. What will happen is that we will be discouraged, and think that we cannot do anything. This is what the advertisements of models do to us; and we are taken for a ride in order for us to have that image of ourselves, and we get discouraged.
Jesus is saying to us that He became one of us. He did not walk on water being God. He did not heal people as God. He did miracles as man, as a human being like us; therefore, we can do what He did also. We can love like He did. We can also allow ourselves to be slapped on the cheek, to be humiliated, and to be crucified. This is what the kingdom of God is built on – on selflessness. Jesus died and rose again because of the power of the Holy Spirit. The power is perfected in weakness. It is the spirit of God who empowers us and gives us life. The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus said, “The flesh profits nothing because it is the Spirit that gives perfection of life in ordinary form.”
A ballet dancer is very gracious and this is due to practice. She is an ordinary person that was perfected by God’s talent. She dances with life in her. In any talent or skill, it can readily be seen if a person had perfected his talent through practice. There is form and this form is given life by the Holy Spirit.
In the kingdom of God, it is better to be of low-key – not a show-off. Jesus, in His being God, set aside His Deity, His majesty, His abilities. This act is called kenosis which means that Jesus laid aside His privileges as King. He became human like us to teach us, to die for us, to give us life and to set an example for us. St. Paul admonishes us to have the same attitude.
In Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Power in Greek is dunamis. Dunamis is from the Holy Spirit. This power, the dunamis, is best demonstrated in kenosis. The power is seen when we set aside of ourselves and we walk in the principles of the Kingdom. It is about humility and not grabbing power.
Jesus, who was already in the form of God, did not grasp or grab. He set aside His deity. If we have Christ in our heart, we would set aside what we have for others. If we would stumble others like eating meat in front of others, we should set it aside for the sake of others.
George McDonald says, “Who, that loves his brother, would not, upheld by the love of Christ… arise from the company of the blessed, and walk down into the dismal regions of despair, to sit with
the last of the unredeemed and be himself more blessed in the pains of hell, than in the glories of heaven.” Jesus was sitted with the Father, but He could not stand seeing man who needed salvation. He came down from heaven and He became man and saved man to give him life. Hebrews 12:2 says “Who for the joy set before Him (giving life to His enemies) endured the cross.” This is the same attitude that St. Paul had when he said to the Romans 9:3, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren.” His brothers are the Israelites who tried to put him to death.
The reason you make it to heaven is because you have attained the full measure of the stature of Jesus who took kenosis. Jesus came from the heavens because there were those who were not saved. We should be like this that when we reach heaven and we see someone who has not reached this place, we should practice kenosis. We set aside our desires for others.
Jesus Christ inspired His disciples. They came from ministry and He told them to look for a place where people would not follow them so that they could rest. But the multitude followed them, and Jesus saw that the people were like sheep without a shepherd. He was also tired, but what He did was that He healed the sick, He taught them, and He fed them. He asked the disciples what they had in their hands so that He could feed the people. Jesus inspired them and they gave up what they had and they fed the multitude. They gave their lives; they did not lose.
When you give your life, you gain. Jesus did not take, but He gave. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. He did not take nor did He grab. Adam sinning was grabbing. Grabbing is what we are supposed to be saved from. The sad thing is that it is the very spirit of the gospel of salvation. Many people preach this: secure your own heaven; grab it; grasp it. We are not thinking that we are like Jesus who couldn’t resist not going down from heaven until the last soul is saved. This is the heart of Jesus. This is kenosis which St. Paul says in Philippians 2.
The paradox of kenosis is that Jesus takes off His deity and the more He takes off His deity, the more He puts on His divine nature. The more you give, the more you will receive. The more you shed, the more you are renewed. Jesus said to lose your life so that you will find it.
This was how the entry of Jerusalem was triumphant. Jesus begins the Holy Week with this because it is the way to life. We get to Easter through the Holy Week, through the Passion. We get to the Promised Land through the wilderness.
The Collect for Fridays says, “Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.
Contemplate. Incline your ear. Give attention. God wants to give us life, but it comes with the first step of contemplation. Contemplate His passion, and we will understand that it is the way of life, the very way to the kingdom of God.