There was a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. She had a rare blood type which she shared with her little brother. The fact that he had recovered from the same disease two years earlier made the chances of success even greater. The doctor carefully explained all this to the little boy, pointing out that without the transfusion his sister would die.
"Would you be brave and give your blood to your sister?" the doctor asked. Johnny hesitated. His lower lip began to tremble. Then he smiled and said, "Sure, for my sister." The two children were wheeled into the hospital room - Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and healthy. He smiled at his sister, the watched as the blood traveled out of his body, down the clear plastic tube. Johnny's smile faded, and as he lay there feeling weak he looked up at the doctor and said, "Doctor, when do I die?' Johnny thought that giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life. Yet because of his great love for her he was prepared to pay the price.
Today we begin the week of weeks and that is Holy Week. Today’s Liturgy of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion unravels what happened from Palm Sunday to Good Friday on Calvary. The beginning of the this liturgy we had the blessing of the palms and the Gospel was proclaimed recounting that day where Jesus walked into Jerusalem and was welcomed into the city like a king and people cried out, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” Then the same people at the end of the week were screaming to the man they named king just a few days back, “Crucify him, crucify him.”
In the first reading from the Book of Isaiah is the third of four passages that describes the ministry of an unnamed “servant of the Lord.” (The fourth passage will be read as the first reading on Good Friday.) It is easy to see how Jesus’ suffering fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy: “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.” In the house of the high priest, Jesus was ridiculed, beaten, and reviled; Herod and his men “treated him contemptuously and mocked him”; Pilate offered to have him flogged. In all this, Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of a suffering servant of the Lord. At the same time the passage from Isaiah makes two other points. First, the servant encourages and rouses the weary. And so it is that Jesus encourages the disciples, comforts the women of Jerusalem, forgives his executioners, and brings the repentant thief to and is suffering at the hands of those who hate him, he is still reaching out with care and concern to others. Second, Isaiah’s mysterious servant, even under duress and great threat, trusts in God to deliver him: “God is my help….I am not disgraced…..I shall not be put to shame”. And so it is that Jesus, with sublime trust rather than with Mark’s agonizing doubt, commends his spirit into the hands of God. It is confidence in God which steels his nerves or, in the words of Isaiah, allows him to “set [his] face like flint” Luke’s Passion (the account that was proclaimed just moments ago) reminds us that the Passion also proclaims Jesus’ ultimate self-giving ministry for others. Though Jesus is facing his own death, his gaze and concern are always directed to those around him; affirming his disciples, healing the man with the severed ear, comforting the women of Jerusalem, forgiving his executioners, saving the repentant thief. In his darkest hour, Jesus’ identity as compassionate Savior shines most brightly. Already in his suffering and death Jesus is showing us that the very dying includes life-giving to others.
My brothers and sisters, as we see Jesus serving his fellow brother and sister and as I mentioned he was the greatest example of the suffering servant. If we don’t do it often let us meditate on the crucifix. Let us ponder on that love that was given to the world that no other love could even be in par with. Let it remind us of that service that we should give to one another without any reservations “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Living Liturgy, pp. 92-93