PALM/PASSION SUNDAY (2023)
Psalms 22:8-9, 17-20,23-24
We begin the holiest week of the Church’s liturgical year with the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The feeling of triumph is, however, short-lived, for the reading of the Lord’s Passion describes in jarring detail a story of betrayal, denial, and extreme torture ending with Jesus’ death and burial. The readings set the solemn tone that will prevail for a full week until the joys of Christ’s resurrection are proclaimed on Easter.
I had an occasion earlier this week to view Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The star of Webber’s musical is not Jesus as one might expect, but rather Judas Iscariot occupies center stage for most of the show. Judas is the protagonist for all of the drama surrounding Jesus, and Webber makes a strong effort to fill in some of the empty spaces left by the Scriptures. We know from Scripture that Judas was stingy with the communal purse strings, finding Jesus’ anointing by Mary nothing more than a waste of potential money. Until the Passion unfolds, Judas is hardly a major character in the gospels. Had Judas not secured his place in history by betraying the one who thought enough of him to invite him into his intimate circle of friends, we might never have heard much about Judas. What Jesus saw in Judas we will never exactly know, but we can be certain that at his beckoning there was no premonition or thought given to a betrayal.
Indeed, what Jesus saw in Judas He sees in us as well – goodness. It’s a goodness that comes from our maker, a goodness that is not overcome by despair, hardships, or difficulties. What our reflections this week on Jesus’ Passion should include is the assurance that good triumphs over evil. The story of Jesus is our story as well. For all of the times we have suffered at the words or actions of some; for all the times when we feel overwhelmed by events over which we have no control; for all the times when we might have felt betrayed by a friend – for these and so many other times, our Savior has felt the same thing. His triumph over death won for us our ability to also triumph over death and every other evil. In the more somber moments of reflection this week, we cannot erase the joy of knowing that good triumphs over every evil, and that Jesus sees in us a fountain of goodness.