Gospel Mark 15:1-39

As soon as morning came,
the chief priests with the elders and the scribes,
that is, the whole Sanhedrin held a council.
They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.
Pilate questioned him,
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
He said to him in reply, “You say so.”
The chief priests accused him of many things.
Again Pilate questioned him,
“Have you no answer?
See how many things they accuse you of.”
Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them
one prisoner whom they requested.
A man called Barabbas was then in prison
along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.
The crowd came forward and began to ask him
to do for them as he was accustomed.
Pilate answered,
“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”
For he knew that it was out of envy
that the chief priests had handed him over.
But the chief priests stirred up the crowd
to have him release Barabbas for them instead.
Pilate again said to them in reply,
“Then what do you want me to do
with the man you call the king of the Jews?”
They shouted again, “Crucify him.”
Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?”
They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”
So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd,
released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged,
handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away inside the palace,
that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.
They clothed him in purple and,
weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.
They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.
They knelt before him in homage.
And when they had mocked him,
they stripped him of the purple cloak,
dressed him in his own clothes,
and led him out to crucify him.

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon,
a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country,
the father of Alexander and Rufus,
to carry his cross.

They brought him to the place of Golgotha
—which is translated Place of the Skull —
They gave him wine drugged with myrrh,
but he did not take it.
Then they crucified him and divided his garments
by casting lots for them to see what each should take.
It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.
The inscription of the charge against him read,
“The King of the Jews.”
With him they crucified two revolutionaries,
one on his right and one on his left.
Those passing by reviled him,
shaking their heads and saying,
“Aha! You who would destroy the temple
and rebuild it in three days,
save yourself by coming down from the cross.”
Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes,
mocked him among themselves and said,
“He saved others; he cannot save himself.
Let the Christ, the King of Israel,
come down now from the cross
that we may see and believe.”
Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.

At noon darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
which is translated,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
“Look, he is calling Elijah.”
One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed
and gave it to him to drink saying,
“Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”
Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.
When the centurion who stood facing him
saw how he breathed his last he said,
“Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Reflection by Brother Joseph Schmidt

Br. Joseph, 84, who now calls Anselm Hall on La Salle University’s campus, home, spent many years as spiritual direction and retreat staff at the Sangre de Cristo Center, and still continues that work today with his fellow Brothers.

Palm Sunday begins the week that Christians call “Holy.”  It is a week in which Jesus reveals in a very focused way, what God’s holy love looks like.  Jesus shows us God-like love by his own acts of love as he responds to a series of mostly frightful and then deadly events.

Holy week begins with Jesus’ willingness to enter Jerusalem, the city of his passion; and ends with Jesus’ embracing the cross, the triumph of his love. Jesus’ love is, of course, not masochistic; but he is clearly aware that if he continues to live God-like love without violence, he will suffer.

Practicing God-like love in our own lives will also involve suffering, particularly as we live the twin spiritual practices of God-like love: willingness and embracing the cross.

Willingness is the spiritual practice allowing us to rise above our willfulness to make it “our way or the highway.” Doing malicious things willfully is, of course, almost our definition of sin.  But we can also do good things willfully.  We can impose our good intentions on ourselves and others in a willful, demeaning way. When we do good willingly, on the contrary, we can act in God-like love toward ourselves and others by being creative and adaptable and never doing even good things in a violent manner.

Embracing the cross is the spiritual practice allowing us to rise above our reaction to retaliate. Jesus’ embrace of the cross is his acceptance of the necessary suffering of loving in a God-like way. During this holy week Jesus teaches us that we are called to embrace suffering, to die daily, if that is all we can do. St. LaSalle refers to this as “abandonment to divine providence.” This is not passivity or “doing nothing” but patiently embracing the suffering that inevitably comes with a life of faith and love.

St. LaSalle alluded to the twin spiritual practices of willingness and embracing the cross, when he described the spirit of faith as having the components: “not to look upon anything but with the eyes of faith, not to do anything but in view of God and to attribute all to God….”

“Not to look upon anything but with the eyes of faith” is to live the God-like vision of “patience and kindness,” forgiveness and mercy, never needing “to take prisoners.” It is to regard and to engage our experiences in a spirit of sharing hope and healing with ourselves, others and all creation, and not inflicting cruelty and dominance.

“Not to do anything but in view of God” puts the emphasis on taking initiative in doing good in a spirit of willingness and not coercion or any kind of willful violence, which could never be done “in view of God.”

“To attribute all to God” focuses the emphasis of the spirit of faith on embracing our cross when suffering is asked of us by God, and we can do nothing but endure.

Holy week reaches a climax with Jesus’s act of forgiving his enemies in the very act of enduring their willful violence – a unique manifestation of God-like love.  Jesus did not retaliate and by praying his Father’s love and mercy on his executioners, he proclaimed that God-like love does not “get back”. God-like love loves even unto death.

Perhaps we can make Holy Week a little more holy by following Jesus’ example during this holy week of our own lives and engaging more fully in the spiritual practices of God-like loving – willingness and embracing the cross in a spirit of faith.