March 24, 2024

Lectionary Readings: Is. 50:4-7; Ps. 22: 8-9. 17-18. 19-20. 23-24; Phil. 2:6-11; Mk. 14:1—15:47

Theme: Have you abandoned the Lord?

The Gospel reading for Palm Sunday  to mark  the beginning of the Holy Week tells us the story of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, the agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal of Judas, the arrest, trial, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus.

     A most poignant and memorable quote in the long  narrative  is the cry of Jesus before he died: “Eli, Eli, la’ma sabach-tha’ni?”“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me!” (Mark 15:34, Matthew 27:46) ).  As part of our  preparation to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection at Easter,  we can rephrase this lament to ask ourselves, “My God, my God, why have I abandoned you?”

     As defined by a dictionary, abandonment is the act of leaving someone or something or ending something, usually forever, completely or for a long time.   An act of abandonment in the Gospel story can be  Judas’ betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. But there are  forms of relative abandonment (short-lived) in the story From which we can draw lessons. They are done by the disciples and by the people.  And these  include the failure of the disciples to heed Jesus’ request to stay awake in Gethsemane, the denial of Peter  and the shouts of  the crowd  during the Roman trial with Pontius Pilate, “Crucify him!”

    Only three disciples, Peter, James and John, were asked by Jesus to go along with him when he went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. The three were considered part of the inner circle of Jesus; they were also the ones who witnessed Jesus’  transfiguration (Mark 9:2-3). When Jesus was in agony, when his soul was “sorrowful unto death” they were unable to heed  the  request to “keep watching” for even an hour.  Three times, Jesus came to them and found them sleeping, prompting him to say, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” The number of times Jesus came to find them sleeping is said to be a prelude to the three times  Peter  denied himself to be a follower and associate of Jesus.

     There are scholars who said that the “stirred”  crowd (ho ochlos)  influenced by the chief priests and who shouted out, “Crucify him (Jesus)!” during the Roman trial were  the same people  who  shouted  out “Hosanna”  days earlier to welcome Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem.  This may be because of the same verb used for “shouted out” (krazein). Whatever, we  can surmise that those who have heard the good news about Jesus shouted out hosannas while those fed with false claims and fake news shouted out to have Jesus crucified.    

     Are you like the disciples with  sleep debt, the denying Peter or the stirred crowds?  As leaders or  members of  our church community,  there may be times when we have lapses;  but we can always resolve to be the like Suffering Servant who had  his face set in flint (Is. 50:7).  We can resolve to have better time management to find time to go to Church, pray and learn the Scriptures; take care of our health to have the stamina to testify to our faith and be discerning to discard fake news and  only listen to the good news of our salvation.  We are assured this is the way to go and share in the joy of Easter. As Jesus has told the sleepy  disciples,  he will tell us, “Get up. Let us go.” (Mark 14:42).

Reflection and Discussion: 1. What are situations when one may abandon God?  2. What can be done to avoid them or face them with faith? What can you do to bring others back to God?

Bibliography: Brown, The Death of the Messiah, from Gethsemane to the Grave, Vol. One (New York, 1994); Harrington and Donahue, The Gospel of Mark (Minnesota, 2002).

This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumna, July 2014 and July 2023

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