In the Tomb and Palm Sunday, Cycle A

This blog is a bit of a mash-up over the course of this 2023 Holy Week.  I followed the encouragement of Fr Dennis’ 2014 homily and our Jesuits this year — engage with your life and the life of the Passion imaginatively, creatively, and fully.  Live, hurt, die, and — soon, soon, soon — resurrect with Jesus Christ, our best friend who doubles as Savior of the World.

Spoiler alert —  theology, spirituality, and mysticism and many words follow.

Our readings for Palm Sunday are here.  

These are the poem, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis Dillon, SJ’s homily from the Mass of

  • April 3, 2014 Noon

The poem D2 references this year are:

In 2014, we reflected on —

In the gospel of Matthew’s Passion, the narrative contains much more silence and waiting for Jesus to speak relative to the Passion in Mark, Luke, and John.  Notable moments of silence and waiting are:

  • (1) Sit here while I go and pray (Gethsemane).
  • (2) Three times Peter, John, and James wait and fall asleep.
  • (3) When Jesus was with the Sanhedrin (“But Jesus was silent.”)
  • (4) Silence in response to “Prophesy for us, Christ; who is it that struck you?”
  • (5) There is no mention of Peter and Jesus locking eyes after the cock crows.
  • (6) And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer.
  • (7) Pilate asks, “‘Do you not hear … against you?’ But he did not answer him.”
  • (8) In the narrative portions featuring Barabbas, the praetorium, Simon the Cyrenian, the crucifixion, and two revolutionaries?  Jesus is silent.

What stuck out to me this time (2014) was “But all this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled.”  Then all the disciples left him and fled.  I suppose it was not that they just didn’t show up, but the scattered and ran from Him — even knowing how much they loved Him.

Similarly, it is a pretty brief treatment of the crucifixion by Matthew (from Golgotha to giving up his spirit), relatively speaking — perhaps capturing a sense of duty done.

I put together a small table, just quickly, but found that Mark was most similar to Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus as silent and the sense of waiting.  Luke had a bit more interaction, and the Gospel of John had a number of expositions or dialogue, consistent with the rest of John.

Passage MatthewGospel of MarkGospel of LukeGospel of John
(1) 26:3614:3222:40 (“Pray that you may not come to the time of trial.”)NA
(2) 26:37-4614:33-4222:45-46 (only once)NA
(3) 26:57-62, 26:5314:53-6122:618:19-24 (a lot of Jesus teaching)
(4) 26:65-6814:63-65 (no note of Jesus’ silence or action) NA
(5) 26:69-7514:66-7222:61 (“The Lord turned and looked at Peter.”) 
(6) 27:1215:1-3, 5 (“no further reply”)22:63-7018 (dialogue between Pontius Pilate and Jesus)
(7) 27:13-1415:6 – 3223 (no answer to Herod, talks to daughters of Jerusalem)19:1-29
(8) 27:45-5015:33 – 3723:44-46 (dialogue with criminals)19:30 (few words by Jesus)

In Greenwich by Kirsten Dierking, the final line of her poem — after taking us through the naval museum and the primer meridian — is

One day, won’t we all have to be brave?

Some background scavenged up by rl for this reference rich poem:

  • Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) was a Viscount and Duke, famous for the Battle of Trafalgar in which he was wounded by a French sharpshooter from the rigging or crow’s nest of his ship to the deck of Nelson’s command.
  • A valorous officer and acclaimed strategist, he claimed many victories and lessened defeats.  In losing his arm during one battle, he returned to the decks after the amputation.
  • Likewise, Nelson was known for his acceptance and “taking on board” men freed from slavery and other bondage.  His personal and navel letters on the whole and actions toward the dignity of all people are likely to take precedence over a letter, now seeming falsely pieced together, indicating his support of the institution of slavery and denigration of others.  One more cautionary tale of judgment of one person based on what someone else writes or says of them.
  • The prime meridian, in a global society that seems to know no bounds, is the longitudinal (circumferential line running from north pole to south pole) line passing through Greenwich England accepted as the 0 degree of the longitudinal system.  It was designated so in 1884 because of the Transit Circle Telescope.
  • I love the choice of this poem, all the more today, when now all of Ukraine rages in defense of itself.  At the time of this homily Russia had unlawfully annexed Crimea, the southern peninsula portion of Ukraine that gave Russia a southern port. 

Lastly, D2 suggested taking time for an imaginative reflection with the Passion this week.

In 2014, I read all four gospels with the received intuition to “stick like a tick” to Jesus — with him, but not him, and basically invisibly.  In just being with him and obeying direct commandments during the Passion, I found eight statements and one observation

  • (1) Take and eat this bread
  • (2) Take and drink this cup
  • (3) Let us go [Jesus choosing the direction][not me doing so, in case that wasn’t clear]
  • (4, 5, 6) Three different kinds of watch, wait, and pray with Jesus
  • (7) Love one another as I have loved you [and love God with all your heart]
  • (8) The greatest Love is a complete offering of one’s self in service for another; serve one another / be a servant.
  • Walking … how much Jesus walked … 100 to 150 miles from Galilee to Jerusalem, from Bethany to Jerusalem and back again, all around Jerusalem, walking to his death.  A dead man walking.  How busy everything was around him and how alone he was in this world.  Were there vendors and shopkeepers he knew and had visited in Jerusalem since he was a boy?  Would they have been asking on Monday morning, “Did you hear about our Jesus?””Walking … how much Jesus walked … 100 to 150 miles from Galilee to Jerusalem, from Bethany to Jerusalem and back again, all around Jerusalem, walking to his death.  A dead man walking.  How busy everything was around him and how alone he was in this world.  Were there vendors and shopkeepers he knew and had visited in Jerusalem since he was a boy?  Would they have been asking on “Monday” morning, “Did you hear about our Jesus?”

This Holy Week (2023) (that was a quick ten-ish years!!), I focused on the presence and longing for Love of Jesus — captured in the smitten expression of the disciple at the table in our (re)featured image of Koder’s Last Supper.  In my heart, feeling Love in the Mass — the love of a good shepherd for us, our parish — that longing comes for and because of the Love of Christ.  Many of us still miss D2.  A visiting Irish Jesuit (and former longtime parish priest in Ireland) creates a lovely space of movement, voice, and silence.  Our off-the-charts pastor is leaving this summer, someone who loved us from Day One, and we loved right back.  The Grad/YP minister and his thoughtful homilies is moving on … and it just feels like a lot of change without any recovery from prior experiences. 

In taking in my own vulnerability of needing the Love of Christ in Mass and more, the gospel of Matthew read much more tenderly and horrifically as I watched my friend Jesus be railroaded and tortured.  The nature of terrorism is that not only is it a singular act of violence, but its intent and impact is destroy human community.  And, in this reflection of longing for Christ’s Love, I felt the possibility of that Love being destroyed with Jesus being crucified, and my own stinging incapacity to feel or share it like Jesus did with his disciples then or how he does so with me (all of us) now.

I’m in the tomb … and … hopeful.

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