GO TO "FIRST IMPRESSIONS" for HOLY
Before we turn to the readings, a
moment’s reflection on our liturgical role. It is always good for
the preacher to be involved in liturgical planning, especially for
this most special week. As we look at the readings we note that
Mark’s Passion narrative is long; but I wouldn’t opt for the shorter
version given in the lectionary. His gospel is usually noted for its
brevity and so the sheer size seems to indicate that Mark wants to
put a lot of emphasis on the passion. He must consider it important;
why else would he depart from his usual quick and brief narrative?
It has become customary to have three readers proclaim the passion.
As we plan the liturgies for this week and especially the
proclamation of the passion narratives, it is important to make sure
the readers are well chosen and rehearsed for their roles. The
missalettes are not helpful here. The gospel is meant to be heard in
liturgical celebrations. With missalettes, the people have their
heads buried in the book; there’s also the dreadful sound of
everyone turning pages at the same time! Hardly conducive to a
reflective listening to the scriptures, especially the solemn
passion. Maybe the assembly could sing an acclamation at key moments
in the story and do without the distraction of the missalettes.
Again, the importance of prepared lectors.
we were to focus our preaching on the Procession Gospel, Mark 11:
1-10? This opening reading about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is
celebratory, filled with biblical imagery of long-held hopes now
fulfilled. There is lots of symbolism pointing to the Jewish, royal,
messianic expectations. For example, Jesus uses a traditional
prerogative of kings when he requisitions a colt for his entrance to
the city of David (Zech. 9:9). His disciples are instructed to say,
"The Master has need of it and will send it back here at once." This
request is enough to satisfy the bystander’s question, "What are you
doing...? At this stage of the week, Jesus is in complete charge of
events. He exhibits knowledge of events to come and he shows his
The people spreading their cloaks
and branches on the road are doing what people did for entering
kings (2 Kings 9:13). "Hosanna" originally meant "save us"; and
later became a shout of praise. So there is a dual significance to
the crowd’s shout. We now know there are two reasons to proclaim
Jesus, for he is both our savior and our sovereign. The people were
anticipating the arrival of David’s kingdom; they see Jesus linked
to the glorious moment when the David-like messiah would come.
We hear this highly charged and
emotional reading at the very opening of today’s liturgy. Later, in
the passion narrative, we will hear the crowds shouting to Pilate
for Jesus’ death – "Crucify him!" How many preachings have we heard,
or preached, about the fickle crowd; one moment pro-Jesus, the next,
anti-Jesus? Why take that usual slant on the passage? Consider
weighing in on the side of the crowd. I notice that this event, with
all its excitement, takes place outside the city, "near the city"
(11:1). Later, Mark will tell us that Jesus enters the city alone
(11:11). So, the excitement is by those outside the city. Jesus goes
into Jerusalem and there he meets opposition and death.
It seems to be the outsiders who are
the ones excited about Jesus. Think of their life-long desperation.
Are they the gospel "highway and by-way" people – those who never
get special places at table, invitations to upper-crust banquets, or
places of honor in temple and synagogue? Jesus’ mission has been to
them. They have already experienced, or heard about how welcome
their lot is with him. Finally, someone from God to tell them they
are not forgotten, indeed, they are loved, by God! Jesus, the one
with authority, has recognized them, healed their afflictions and
forgiven their sins. They know too, that Jesus is a Galilean, an
outsider, one of their own, raised up by God and, as Zechariah had
promised, come to Jerusalem riding on a colt.
We can look back to the first Sunday
of Lent (February 18, Mark 1:12-15), when Jesus started proclaiming
his message, "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is
at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel." Now we are at the end of
the same gospel, Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The sudden
reversal that will lead to his suffering and death is about to take
place. What happened to the bright promise of his beginnings? And,
is this what the "Time of fulfillment" looks like? This total
collapse? During the intervening episodes, Jesus’ public ministry,
we have learned more about the identity of Jesus, the nature of his
reign and what it means to be his disciples. (After the Easter
season, we will return to hearing Mark’s gospel on Sunday.) "Time of
fulfillment," has taken flesh in Jesus. He is the reign, the kingdom
of God. He fulfills ancient promises, but not as his contemporaries
In Jesus’ lifetime he has shown his
authority over sickness, evil spirits and his opponents. He was also
in control as he prepared to enter Jerusalem. Now he will use his
power and authority; but it will not be in the way the world does.
Rather, his power will be in service for others, he will lay down
his life for our benefit. We will see in his way of service a new
kind of authority over sin and evil, a triumph that will come, not
by force, but by self-sacrifice in the interest of the other. His
authority will not be forced on others; we will be free to choose
his way to life through death. While we might ordinarily exert
ourselves through power and military might, he will do so in
self-emptying humility. Paul makes it clear that Jesus was willing
to give all, hold back nothing on our behalf. No sacrifice was too
great in order for Christ to show us God’s love for us. The church
in Philippi was suffering both internal strife and outer persecution
(1: 28-29). There were also those Jewish Christians who wanted all
converts to keep the old observance. Paul places a reminder before
this Christian community. Christ gave up all for them, from his
equality with God, to his suffering and death: That’s the big
sacrifice the community needs to focus on – and not on its
differences and theological squabbles.
Jesus’ rejection, suffering and
death fulfill what he has been telling his disciples. This should
come as no surprise to Mark’s audience. Jesus’ own suffering is a
central focus in the story and must have been a consolation to
Mark’s community and to us contemporary Christians, for whom faith
and allegiance to Jesus come with a cost.
When the passion narrative begins we
can hear that a change has taken place in the gospel. Jesus, the one
with authority and power, now becomes the one who suffers. He is on
the receiving end of much activity. He is: conspired against,
denied, betrayed, arrested, tried, convicted, tortured, crucified
and finally buried. In his suffering, Jesus identifies with those
who have undergone similar injustices and with all those who suffer.
One of the names we give this day is "Passion Sunday." The word
passion, has roots in words meaning "suffering" and "being acted
upon." There are many people who must suffer, or have something done
to them; they have no choice. We suffer old age, sickness, physical
debilitation. We also suffer from the pressures of economic and
social systems. We cannot always change these circumstances and so,
we identify with Jesus, receiving strength from his own endurance
under his passion.
Passion, in English, also suggests
strong feelings. In this sense Jesus was an initiator, one who felt
strongly about what he was to do and went about doing it. He was a
passionate lover of God and humanity and this passion energized and
forged his determination to continue on the path God gave him to
follow for us; to preach God’s love for the outsider . No opposition
could prevent this passionate savior from completing his task for
us, even if it meant his death.
One response we can make this week
of our Savior’s execution, is to address the issue of the death
penalty in our preaching. Our church’s stand against the death
penalty provides ample material for this preaching as we hear the
gospel’s description of Jesus’ execution today and on Good Friday.
Over these years I have been posting the names of people on North
Carolina’s death row. This may provide an opportunity for the
preacher to suggest writing to inmates on death row, either the
names that have appeared in these reflections, or those at a death
row closer to you. If you need information, your diocesan peace and
justice office would be one source and, of course, the internet has
ample web pages dedicated to the topic. One such web page is
provided by our North Carolina ecumenical group, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." http://www.pfadp.org/
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s
TWO GOOD BOOKS FOR THE PREACHER
A CRUCIFIED CHRIST IN HOLY WEEK:
ESSAYS ON THE FOUR GOSPEL PASSION NARRATIVES, by Raymond E.
Brown. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1989. Paper, 72 pages.
An eminent biblical scholar reflects
on the four Passion narratives. His strong pastoral interests come
through these very readable essays. Good for preachers. Also good
for those who want to do some meditative reading during Holy Week.
MARK, by Wilfrid Harrington,
O.P. Wilmington: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1979. Paper, 252 pages.
This is a fine study of Mark’s
Gospel and makes good reading during this liturgical year when Mark
is being read on Sundays.
Gospels never tell us quite how the sufferings of Jesus
reverse completely his fortunes and ours, only that they
do. The Philippians hymn provides an answer. Jesus was
not spurred by selfishness or conceit in anything he
did. In humility he counted everyone better than himself
in the sense that they were worth dying for. He knew
that God would make it right somehow. That is what he
always taught. And he lived by what he taught, up to the
end. A homily on hosannas sounding in the ears of
Jesus–this Jew who trusted God completely–on the brink
of his dissolution might be the most powerful parable
out of life that could be shared this day."
in, PROCLAMATION 4: AIDS FOR INTERPRETING THE LESSONS OF
THE CHURCH YEAR, SERIES C. Philadelphia: Fortress Press,
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
‘The Teacher says, "Where is my guest
room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"’
Hospitality is an important
observance in the Bible. Strangers (sojourners) were received into
one’s home as an honored guest to be fed, sheltered, and protected.
This was not just an oriental custom or good manners but a sacred
duty. The Israelites are reminded that they themselves were once
strangers in the land of Egypt and we see hospitality woven in the
details of the life of Jesus and the early church as a natural
expression of love.
Each year in Wake County, 4,000
individuals experience homelessness, including 2,700 children in
Wake County schools who do not have a place to call home.
Family Promise of Wake County began
in 1994 as Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network (WIHN), a 501(c)(3)
providing church-based emergency shelter and meals to Wake County
families experiencing temporary homelessness. Since then, services
have been expanded to include life-skills training, case management,
a day center and transitional housing. Family Promise's mission is
to transform the lives of families experiencing temporary
homelessness by helping them find support services and safe,
affordable, permanent housing.
Family Promise is one of only two
emergency shelters in Wake County to allow families to stay
together, regardless of the ages and genders of the children and
parents, sparing parents the difficult choice between keeping their
families together and finding a safe place for their children to
Each year, more than 50 Wake County
congregations reflecting a broad range of religious identities offer
their buildings and volunteer power to host up to 10 families each
week through the Emergency Shelter program. Every week, two host
congregations (with the help of their supporting partner
congregations) provide up to five families each a safe place to
sleep, meals, transportation and a sense of community. Annually, the
Emergency Shelter program engages more than 2,000 volunteers.
The Family Promise Ministry here at
Cathedral provide meals and hospitality on a quarterly basis for
homeless families being housed at Edenton St. United Methodist
Church and First Baptist (Salisbury) Church. This wonderful
opportunity to express love needs your talents. Please contact:
To give hospitality to the poor is
to give hospitality to Jesus.
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh,
March 25, 2018
Mark 11: 1-10
Isaiah 50: 4-7 Philippians 2: 6-11 Mark 14:1- 15:47
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Those preceding Jesus as well as those
following kept crying out,
"Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in
the name of the Lord."
Humans fight to gain power over
others. Disciples are not exempt from these ambitions; but Jesus
knew that God’s rule would come by his patient suffering and death.
How different is that! The crowd and we look for displays of power.
But Jesus offers us the cross.
So we ask ourselves:
- God’s power appears as weakness
to the world?
- What could that mean?
INMATES ON-LINE JOURNAL
This is an announcement I received
from Lyle May, a friend and inmate on North Carolina’s Death row.
The "Life Lines Collective" is a
group of creative writers on North Carolina’s death row who have
found a unique way to share their experiences through an online
Convinced that all of us are more than the worst thing we’ve done,
"Life Lines" attempts to open a clearing for new kinds of
solidarity: To build up a world that does not yet exist. To learn
more about these amazing audio essays, poems and spoken-word pieces
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
"One has to strongly affirm that
condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that
humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most
forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this
space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a
postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not
forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through
North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If
the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
- Jeffrey M. Kandies #0221506 (On
death row since 4/20/94)
- Vincent M. Wooten #0453231
- John R. Elliott #0120038
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail
Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic
position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
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