Through this hymn of the early Christian church, we enter into what has been traditionally known as Passion Week. For centuries this week was set apart, along with Holy Week, as the culmination of Lenten devotions.
During these two final weeks of Jesus’ life, he emphasized prayer and works of compassion for the poor. Many early Christian leaders even released some slaves and prisoners during these days in the spirit of Jesus who sets all free.
Scripture indicates that Jesus’ teachings and healings intensify as he approaches Jerusalem for the last time: blessing the children, healing the blind and those with leprosy, casting out unclean spirits, raising Lazarus from death, experiencing union with God on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Through these culminating experiences as he turns his face toward Jerusalem, as indeed throughout his whole life, Jesus longs to reveal to us the heart of God, which had so deeply enfolded and shone within his own heart. What do our weekly scripture readings show us this week about the heart of God that was one with Jesus’ heart?
“Who is this King of glory?” (v. 10) asks Psalm 24. The psalm gives one answer. Our scripture reading from Philippians seems to show another aspect. What answer do we begin to see and feel as we draw closer to God?
God of mercy, God of healing, help me in my reflections and experiences of this day to see into your heart more fully and to respond to the mystery of your love more deeply. In the name and light of Jesus. Amen.
This week’s readings prepare us for Palm Sunday, a joyous event. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of kingship in ancient Israel. The people greet him with loud acclamations. He is coming in the name of the Lord! Standing along the road leading into Jerusalem, how could anyone imagine what would happen that following week? Wasn’t Jesus finally going to manifest the fullness of God’s power, take his place on the throne of David, and overthrow the Romans? No, because that was not his mission. He came not to build an earthly kingdom but to lay aside his rights. He came to be glorified by being humiliated . . . for us. He came to suffer and die . . . for us.
• Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. What situations have called you to move forward in vulnerability, “knowing that God promises not safety but limitless strength”?
• Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. When have you claimed God’s strength to see you through “the gates of righteousness”?
• Read Mark 11:1-11, 15-18. In a trying time in your life, when have you turned to the love and care of friends? How have you experienced God’s entering your life calmly and gently?
• Read Philippians 2:5-11. How does this early Christian hymn of the church speak to you as you enter Holy Week?
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