A purifying spark

Readings for April 14, 2019
Palm Sunday

Luke 19:28-40
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22
Philippians 2:6-11
Luke 22:14-23:56

www.usccb.org/bible/readings/

Even those who do not believe in Jesus as savior must be impressed with his courage and perseverance. The story of the cruelty, pain, and suffering he faced, his silent refusal to dispute the false charges against him, his words from the cross to those crucified at his side, to those he loved at the foot of the cross, and to us who know and believe in his power, show incredible fortitude and steadfastness to doing his Father’s will.

Jesus’ bravery is juxtaposed with those around him, from the religious leaders who feared his popularity, to Pilate who feared a revolt, to his Apostles who feared for their own lives, to Judas who feared he could not be forgiven for his sins. Jesus fearlessly moved forward while others around him fearfully retreated.

The readings this week offer a similar juxtaposition, starting with Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem and ending with Jesus’ persecution and his cruelly humiliating and excruciatingly painful death. Somewhere between “Hosanna!” and “Crucify him!” Jesus “set his face like flint.” Flint is a hard, sedimentary rock. At the time of Isaiah, flint was used for making weapons and tools. Iron wasn’t yet used for a couple of hundred years and the hardness of flint, the way it broke apart into shards with very sharp edges, was readily available and a high quality material for knives, swords and other sharp tools. As a metaphor, Jesus setting his face like flint is a sharpening of his focus in completing his ministry, and a hardening against his accusers.

Another property of flint is that when it strikes a hard surface, it lets off sparks. Again turning metaphoric, the sparks from Jesus are fanned into flame when we see his suffering as victory. Our hearts are set on fire for his mission, his Word, and his love. Those that feared him feared the fire of his Words, believing they would consume. They had forgotten about God’s revelation to Moses in the burning bush: God’s fire is purifying, not consuming. Jesus set his face like flint to provide the spark for the purifying fire of God.

And so we begin Holy Week preparing for that purifying spark. We are near completion of our Lenten journey and walking with our Lord toward the darkest day in the history of the world. We mourn on Good Friday and will rejoice anew as Jesus rises from the grave, victorious over death and affirming his salvific sacrifice.

Almighty and ever-living God, who as an example of humility for the human race to follow caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the cross, graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering and so merit a share of his Resurrection. We ask this in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen
-Palm Sunday Mass collect prayer

5 thoughts on “A purifying spark

  1. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. 4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. – John 18, 3-6. Jesus wasn’t afraid of what was going to happen to him, but the men who came to arrest him were afraid of what might happen to them. Those who reject or oppose our Lord have cause to be afraid. Excellent post, Tim. It’s material for a good homily.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Even those who do not believe in Jesus as savior must be impressed with his courage and perseverance. The story of the cruelty, pain, and suffering he faced, his silent refusal to dispute the false charges against him, his words from the cross to those crucified at his side, to those he loved at the foot of the cross, and to us who know and believe in his power, show incredible fortitude and steadfastness to doing his Father’s will.”

    And at the end Jesus said ‘I Thirst”
    What was He thirsting for? Certainly not a drink, mere seconds before He was to expire.

    This last WORD means that despite; perhaps even motivated by all that He had already done and given; He still desired to do more. So what did Jesus have in mind here?

    Thanks Tim, an excellent discourse.

    Tim have you given any thought to becoming a deacon? Pray about it.

    With prayers and blessings,
    Patrick

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jesus thirsted for the fourth Passover cup of wine (Hallel) which he and the apostles (who must have wondered) refrained from taking at the Last Supper which our Lord conducted as head of the household. The Gospels record the taking of only the third cup (Berekah). Jesus altered its meaning from a past remembrance of redemption and liberation from Egypt to the redemption He was about to accomplish on the Cross. During the drinking of the third cup, the Jews thank God for the fruit of the vine (symbolic of God’s grace and providential care) and His salvation. The fourth cup concludes the Passover meal. The fourth cup of the Jewish Passover marks the time of wrath or justice foreshadowed in the Lord’s Passover in Egypt. The tradition of this cup is stated in Revelation 14. The fourth cup of wine is also called the “Cup of Completion”. Thus, Jesus completed the Last Supper when he received the vinegar (sour wine) that was extended to him on a hyssop branch just before he died on the Cross. In Leviticus, God commanded His people to use hyssop in the ceremonial cleansing of people and houses. When the Israelites marked their doorposts with lamb’s blood in order for the angel of death to pass over them, God instructed them to use hyssop as a paintbrush. The Last Supper and Calvary, therefore, comprise the Passover meal. The apostles had already eaten the flesh of the sacrificed Lamb of God and drunk his blood after our Lord’s consecration over the third cup (The Cup of Salvation). Traditionally, the lamb is consumed in between the drinking of the second and third cup. So, when Jesus said, “it is finished or completed,” just before he bowed his head, he was referring to the Passover Meal.

      Liked by 1 person

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