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Palm Sunday 2014

Isaiah on this Palm Sunday speaks of being given the tongue of a teacher that he might know how to sustain the weary. Paul's letter to the Philippians highlights the total self-emptying of Jesus as something to be emulated to the point of death that others might know new life. Then we have Matthew's moving narrative of the passion and death of Jesus, the ultimate self-emptying, culminating in forgiveness for even his perpetrators.

Is Palm Sunday indeed less about ultimate crucifixion and indeed more about a life lived for others and in loving relationship with others, about a truly Suffering Servant, about a call to put on the mind of Christ? Perhaps that is the self-emptying we are called today and every day to emulate, being emptied for others. Jesus indeed truly emptied himself. The hymn, And Can It Be, echoes, "He left his Father's throne above, (so free, so infinite his grace!) … emptied himself of all but love." The mind that was in Christ Jesus is a mind expressed through loving thoughts and actions. It's too big a mind for "me" or "thee" to have. It's a mind that we share in love.

I borrow now from some of Richard Rohr's Palm Sunday reflections over the years. In one he writes, "The supreme irony of the whole crucifixion scene is this: He, who was everything, had everything taken away from him. He, who was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was crowned with thorns. He is the eternal sign of God to humans, yet his arms were nailed open because he said (with) his life three most dangerous words: "I love you." (2006)

Again in the words of Richard Rohr, "We are meant to draw from the life of Jesus so that we, too, begin to empty ourselves of all but love. We get it wrong, of course. We fall. But when we fall, we get up and get going again. It's like a toddler learning to walk; (s/he) takes a few wobbly steps, falls on (his/her) backside, gets up again with a grin and gives it another go." (2011)

Lent is surely not for itself alone but rather to grace us, to prepare us to be truly an Easter People, a People of Joy, or it has little merit. Richard Rohr quotes a lesser known Saint Richard from the 12th century who discerned that "For God to be good, God can be one. For God to be loving, God has to be two because love is always a relationship. For God to be supreme joy and happiness, God has to be three," and then adds that "for lovers do not know full happiness until they both delight in the same thing, like new parents with the ecstasy of their first child. The Holy Spirit is that shared love of the Father and Son, and shared love is always happiness and joy. The Holy Spirit is whatever the Father and the Son are in love with; the Holy Spirit is that excitement and joy—about everything that has been created!" (2013) More self-emptying?!

• How can I daily emulate more fully the Jesus who "emptied himself of all but love"?
• What would embracing the suffering that goes with loving self-emptying invite in me?
• How might Lent birth ever deeper Easter excitement and joy in me for ALL of creation?

– Sheila Leonard, PBVM

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