Palm Sunday B Gospel of Mark March 28, 2021
Annual Collection for Holy Land, today through Good Friday.
(Insights for this homily were HEAVILY gleaned from the reflections of Fr. Daniel H. Mueggenborg)
The last human voice to speak in this long passion narrative is, interestingly, one of the Roman Centurions who participated in this gruesome event. He says, “Truly this was the Son of God!” In this gospel, the quote ends with an exclamation point (!). Was this a proclamation of belief and devotion, a statement of shear horror, or an acknowledgement of guilt and repentance? My guess is that it starts as a statement of horror. Can you even imagine such a spontaneous awareness? The realization that you had just actively participated and contributed to the crucifixion of the Son of God?! Of course, all of us ….who are sinners…. have done exactly that! But my guess is that after the horror, the centurion then follows with guilt, repentance and finally a proclamation of belief and devotion. A good model to follow.
This centurion is also the first human voice in the Gospel of Mark that actually acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God. I know many of you have read through the entire Gospel of Mark recently as was suggested at the beginning of Lent. During this reading you may have noticed that in the very first line of the Gospel Mark himself declares that Jesus is the Son of God. Later at the baptism of Jesus the voice from Heaven declares that “you are my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ Still further on in the Gospel, at the Transfiguration, again the voice from Heaven declares, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
(Arguably, Peter is also breaking through the confusion about the identity of Jesus when he declares that Jesus is the Messiah, but at least in Gospel of Mark, stops short of specifically naming Jesus as the ‘Son of God’)
Anyway, a major insight that can be gleaned from Mark’s account is that the Centurion demonstrates that the Messiah can be personally KNOWN, not just in those moments of glory and victory and miracles, but also in moments of great suffering and even guilt. God is always revealing Himself to us and always calling us to this personal relationship. God will use any opportunity to break into our consciousness to give us the love and assurance we need. The inspiration we need to keep moving forward in quest of this ultimate encounter with Jesus in Heaven. Heaven is also where we finally and fully recognize each other for who we really are, daughters and sons of God.
Holy Week especially reminds us that we don’t even have to wait for Heaven to have this intimate encounter with God. Especially in the sacraments, celebrated among the community of believers, we already have a taste of the real Divine presence in our midst. Sometimes in our experiences of great joy and triumph, sometimes in our experiences of suffering, desperation and loss, and everything in between.
Perhaps this week we can spend some time reflecting on when we have most fully recognized that Jesus is really the Son of God. And that He loves us enough to come and save us from our confusion, desperation, suffering and sinfulness. When did that happen? How do we declare this among others in their time of need?