Learning from the humility of Jesus’ sufferings


Reflection on Mass readings for March 24 (Palm Sunday)


Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16

Isaiah 50:4-7

Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24

Philippians 2:6-11

Mark 14:1-15:47


The authentic experience of Palm Sunday is, in my mind, one of spiritual whiplash. Beginning with the opening Gospel at the procession and blessing of the palms, the liturgy of the Church takes us on an emotional and existential roller coaster – from the shouts of praise at Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem to the screams of condemnation at his crucifixion.

Along the way, we may find we recognize ourselves in many of the painful encounters of the Passion narrative: Peter’s moments of weakness and denial, the faithful suffering of Our Lady and her companions, and Christ’s own cry of abandonment to the Father.

This challenging liturgy is a turning point for all of us in the Church as we enter the final days of preparation for the Triduum and Easter solemnities and approach the close of the forty days of Lent.

For me, this is always a moment for retrospection, especially to look back on my own experience and spiritual fruits of the season. I can’t speak for anyone else, but so far, I can’t think of a year in which I could say my Lent went completely according to plan. Every year, I set optimistic goals and try to challenge myself in each of the pillars of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, only to find myself approaching the finish line of Holy Week with more than a few of those goals unmet.

But then, perhaps that’s the point. Even if the only thing we were to take away from this sacred season was a greater humility and recognition of our total dependence on the merciful love of God, that would be more than enough to prepare our hearts to better receive the joy of Christ’s Resurrection this Easter. As St. Paul writes so beautifully in his letter to the Philippians, this is the same virtue that Jesus himself models perfectly in his submission to the suffering of his Passion and death.

Like every other virtue, however, this isn’t a quality that we are simply meant to admire from afar, or contemplate in the abstract; instead, Our Lord reveals his humility to us firsthand by coming to be with us in his Body and Blood in every Mass and renewing us with his merciful love in the sacraments of his Church. Where our own strength fails, he steps in to transform us from within, and make our hearts, wills, and minds like his own.

As St. Paul reminds us, the Way of the Cross and the humiliation Jesus experienced on his path to Calvary did not end in the darkness of the tomb. He invites us to share our own crosses and suffering with him on that journey to Golgotha, no matter how heavy they may be, so that we may one day share in his exaltation.

As we approach this turning point and enter our final days of anticipation for the celebrations of the Triduum, it’s true we may not feel like we are fully prepared or ready for the mysteries that we will celebrate, or that we have received everything Our Lord has to give from this season. We may worry that when temptation strikes, we may again find ourselves among those whose cries of “Hosanna!” became demands for his death.

If those doubts arrive, or if we simply recognize that there is still so much work left to be done on our lifelong journey to sanctity, we shouldn’t be afraid to voice those needs to the Lord. We can learn from the faithful love of his closest friends and apostles, who were able to remain at the foot of his Cross through the love they had shared with him, and the strength and intimacy of their friendship. Jesus Christ wants nothing more than for us to share in that same love, which we will find waiting for us in the silence of prayer and the graces given to us through his holy Church.

In these final days, then, as we anticipate the most sacred and solemn days of Holy Week and the dawn of the coming Resurrection, let’s set aside that time and attention to remain and to journey with him on this Way of the Cross, to the tomb and beyond.


Father Cassidy Stinson is the administrator of St. Jude, Radford; chaplain of Radford University Catholic Campus Ministry; and a member of the Institute of Jesus Priest, a secular institute founded by Blessed James Alberione.


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