Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion: The Compassionate Lord on the Cross
This year our gospel readings are taken from the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of Luke has many themes. Sometimes it is called the Gospel of the Lowly as it emphasizes Jesus’ love for everyone and His particular love for the poor, the infirm and the downtrodden. “The lowly have been raised up,” Mary proclaims. Sometimes the Gospel of Luke is called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. The presence and action of the Holy Spirit is seen throughout the gospel. Sometimes the Gospel of Luke is called the Gospel of the Compassionate Lord. The Lord’s compassion is emphasized throughout the Gospel. The very command of the Lord in Matthew, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” is modified in Luke to “Be compassionate as your heavenly father is compassionate.”
I would like to focus on the Lord’s compassion as we meditate on the Passion of the Lord from Luke. The night before Jesus died, there was a melee in the Garden of Olives. The Temple soldiers tried to arrest Jesus, and his disciples began to fight back. One of the servants of the high priest had an ear cut off. Jesus healed the boy and then told his disciples to put away their swords. The young boy was just caught up in the situation. He did not deserve any form of punishment. Jesus is more concerned with healing the boy than with saving His own life. He didn’t use the fracas as an opportunity to escape. He used it as an opportunity to demonstrate the compassion of God.
The Lord’s first words of compassion in the passion in Luke were addressed to Peter during the Last Supper. Jesus told Peter that He had prayed for him that his faith might not fail. If it does, then when he turns back, Peter must strengthen his brothers. Jesus sees Peters weakness, his braggadocio, and has already forgiven him for, well, for being Peter, that well meaning clod who talks and acts first, then thinks later. Jesus knows him and has compassion on him for his weakness.
The morning of Good Friday, Peter denied the Lord three times. Then there was that moment, that moment when Jesus was led from the Sanhedrin’s chambers to Pilate. He passed by Peter. Perhaps, their eyes met. I cannot picture the look of Jesus being anything other than sorrow for Peter’s pain at having betrayed His Lord.
When Jesus addressed the women of Jerusalem on the way to the place called Skull, He told them that He was more concerned with what would happen to them then He was with what was happening to Himself.
When He was crucified His first words were, “Father, forgive them they do not know what they are doing.” And then, to the criminal tradition calls Dismis, the Good Thief, Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
His focus was and is on others. He really does see the pain of others and hurts for them, be it the servant of the high priest, Peter, the Daughters of Jerusalem, or even a convicted criminal. He sees our pain and hurts for us, whether that pain was imposed on us by others, or whether we have hurt ourselves. Perhaps your children have hurt you, or your parents. Perhaps your spouse knows how to push your buttons, and does so. Or maybe its your brothers or sisters, the neighbors, the people at work or at school. Maybe you are still reeling from that guy, that girl, who played with your heartstrings, then faded away, or quickly disappeared. Or maybe we have hurt ourselves and gone where we should not have gone, done what we should not have done, saw what we should not have seen, and perhaps now we feel very bad about ourselves. Jesus does not want us hurting. He calls us to give Him our pain and sin no more. That is why he was crucified.
Today we look at the cross and know that the Compassionate One is looking back. He sees the pain we have within us, our weakness, our insecurities, our fears, our sins. He accepts the cross so our pain can become His pain. He calls us to let go of all that is destroying us and trust in His Compassionate Mercy.
By His cross, we are healed.