Palm/ Passion Sunday - C - 2019. Isaiah 50: 4-7. Phil. 2: 6-11. Luke 22: 23 - 56.
Though the four 'passion narratives' seem similar and tell the same story, each is unique. Every evangelist emphasizes different aspects of Jesus' suffering and death - the aspects he believes his particular community needs to hear. More than any other of the gospel evangelists, Luke zeros in on the merciful Jesus. And nowhere is this more evident than in his 'passion narrative'.
Luke's Jesus is always considerate, always forgiving. That trait runs through the whole of his gospel. Only he, for example, gives us the parable of the 'Prodigal Son', and the story of Jesus' encounter with Zaccheus the corrupt Jericho tax collector. He alone teaches us the lesson of the 'Pharisee and Tax Collector' praying in the temple.
And notice how at the beginning of the narrative how only Luke, during the Last Supper, inserts Jesus' command, 'Let the greatest among you be as the least, and the leader as the servant'. This command sets the pattern for the remainder of Jesus' passion behavior: along the road to Calvary he diverts attention from himself to the future sufferings the residents of Jerusalem will endure - 'weep for yourselves and for your children'. It is only Luke who has Jesus pray, 'Father forgive them, they know not what they do', as his enemies drive nails into his wrists. And Luke's Jesus alone assures the repentant thief, 'This day you will be with me in paradise'.
Reflecting, then, on Luke's unique passion theology, we can begin to notice some overlooked aspects in our other two readings. In the reading from Isaiah, it is significant that the prophet's pain comes from his mission to 'speak to the weary a word that will arouse them'. If Isaiah was not so concerned for others, he would not have to endure such suffering.
And in Paul's passage, we are forced to zero in on the words, 'He (Jesus) emptied himself and took the form of a slave.' The form which the emptying/ humiliation takes is rooted in Jesus' day by day experiences: his openness to those around him. That is what Luke has Jesus do.
Throughout Luke's gospel Jesus constantly identifies with those on the fringes of Ist century AD society: with sinners, women, Samaritans, and in the passion narrative with those carrying out the death sentence and the criminals that share his same punishment. Mercy and forgiveness are highlighted.
As I already said, Luke geared his passion narrative to his community's needs. No biblical writing is ever composed in a vacuum. So it is interesting that Luke's contains so many events that stress the merciful Jesus. So one of the best ways to celebrate this Holy Week - besides participating in the various liturgical celebrations - would be to reflect on how we, as individuals and as a community could practice mercy and forgiveness. In what situations, and towards which people do I /we need to direct forgiveness?