Father Donald Senior, CP

A king like no other

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Perspectives on Scripture

March 20: Palm Sunday
Lk 19:28-40; Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Lk 22:14—23:56

“Jesus is the human face of the Father’s Mercy.” These are the striking opening words of Pope Francis’ announcement of the Jubilee of Mercy, which began on Dec. 8, 2015 and runs through Nov. 20. As Holy Week unfolds that is precisely what we witness: God’s unlimited mercy lavished on us through the life-giving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The readings for this Palm Sunday are beautiful and abundant. The account of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem is read first and lays the foundation for the Palm Sunday celebration: the multitudes acclaim Jesus as their “king” and Messiah who comes to claim his city, Jerusalem, the city of King David.

Yet we know that Jesus is truly a king but a king like no other. His power is not rooted in might and violence but in his loving service to those in need, expressed in his healing touch and reconciling words. That will become clear as the acclamations of the crowds fade away and we enter into the story of Jesus’ passion that will dominate the Scripture readings today.

The evangelists portray the passion of Jesus in differing ways and this Sunday we hear Luke’s account, the Gospel from which the Sunday selections are taken throughout this year. From the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, Luke portrays Jesus as the Spirit-filled prophet who brings God’s mercy and justice to the world. The opening scene is that of Jesus preaching in his hometown synagogue of Nazareth where he declares that God has anointed him “to bring glad tidings to the poor … to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Lk 4:18).

Luke’s Gospel illustrates that is precisely what Jesus does throughout his ministry: healing the leper, restoring her son to the widow of Nain and their daughter to Jairus and his wife, feeding the multitudes, accepting the lavish and tender love of the woman in Simon’s house, dining with Levi and his friends, accepting the hospitality of Zacchaeus who was perched in the sycamore tree.

It is a message of mercy and forgiveness that the Jesus of Luke’s Gospel proclaims in his teaching: the parables of recovering the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son; the examples of the Good Samaritan who is the true neighbor and the humble publican in the temple who receives God’s forgiving mercy.

As we stand this Palm Sunday and listen to Luke’s account of Jesus’ final hours, we discover this same merciful Jesus even as he faces death: healing the severed ear of one who came to arrest him in Gethsemane, turning a face of mercy and forgiveness to Peter even as he denies his master; consoling the women of Jerusalem who weep for him, forgiving those who nail him to the cross, and promising paradise to the repentant criminal who faced death alongside him.

In Luke’s account of the Last Supper, Jesus reminds his disciples (who even at this sacred moment argue among themselves about which of them is the greatest!) that he is among them “as one who serves” — and his most intense and complete act of service was to give his life for the sake of those he loved.

As we begin this Holy Week, we truly seek God’s mercy and loving forgiveness. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”


  • scripture