On Palm Sunday, we enter into the most moving week of the liturgical year.
As we enter into His passion through quiet prayer, we engage the love in His heart that embraces the sufferings and insults of all humanity. This is Christ’s opportunity to pour out on mankind God’s unfathomable love and mercy. As we encounter His outward silence, let us be in touch with the inward roar of saying “yes” to the Father. Jesus models the strength and wisdom we need in encountering the effects of sin in our lives.
Palm Sunday’s first two readings set the stage and throw light on what is happening in the heart of Jesus.
Isaiah begins with what might be a mystic’s explanation. “The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”
Jesus might well have prayed over this passage from Isaiah again and again, rehearsing in His own body His response to the coming sufferings. Silence is His response to violence, setting the stage for the passion, and it also ought to set the stage for our passion.
Next, we move into Paul’s understanding of the meaning of these sufferings. “Christ Jesus, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus Christ, through whom the world was created, allows Himself to be treated as a criminal and a slave in order to save mankind.
These two passages set up the passion. Several episodes reflect the power of Christ’s silence in facing violence. Reflecting on any one of these episodes might profoundly influence our decisions in the events we face.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, the full force of the coming crucifixion hits Jesus. He doesn’t rebel. He knows that Judas is betraying Him for money. He doesn’t organize the 11 disciples to intercept the soldiers on their way. No, He models for us the power of silence in the face of temptation. “He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.’”
When they came to arrest Him, He simply asked them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me; but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled.” He didn’t flee. He submitted to their authority to arrest Him.” His silent “yes,” in obedience to the Father’s will enabled our redemption to move forward.
Later, in the presence of the chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin, when many false charges were hurled against Jesus, the chief priest said to Him, “Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?” But He was silent and answered nothing.
The love burning in Christ’s heart, yearning to pour itself out for our redemption is far greater than the desire to defend Himself against false charges. We might even say that His silence roars with love for our redemption. His silence mitigates their desire for violence. It takes a greater evil to attack a person who doesn’t defend himself. Jesus wanted to drink the dregs of all the evil in the world. He modeled for us how silence can protect us from entering into the violence of our perpetrators.
Next, Jesus is led before Pilate. “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.”
Let us pause for a moment and enter into what must have been going on in the heart of Jesus. Jesus has already sweat blood in the garden. He is scourged, crowned with thorns, repeatedly falsely accused, and yet responds with silence; but it is a love-filled silence, a redemptive silence. Jesus chooses to suffer in silence, because He would rather suffer anything that will save us from the fires of hell.
As we walk with Him this week, will we enter into His power of silence? Will we console Jesus with love and gratitude for what He is suffering for us? Will we even go further and ask Him for the grace to enter into His suffering for the salvation of souls?
More pointedly, will we embrace in silent love some of the hurts we receive from others and offer this up for their salvation? Have we ever thought that perhaps sometimes Jesus allows people close to us to hurt us so we might enter, with Jesus, into their salvation? Silence with Jesus this week could be a life-changer.