· Vatican City ·

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord: 24 March

A remedy for self-sufficiency

 A remedy for self-sufficiency  ING-012
22 March 2024

On Palm Sunday we enter into Holy Week with its dramatic journey from high triumph to low degradation. The Hosannas ring out from those who went before and those who followed. By the end of the week they will spit on him, blindfold him and beat him up before nailing his bruised body to the cross.

This fall from high to low finds a reflective resonance in the words of the second reading from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians. From being in the form of God … Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a servant … he humbled himself and became obedient unto death. This is the classic New Testament proclamation of the only Christian virtue that finds little or no recognition in the world of pagan culture, and that is humility. We are urged in the verse before the Philippians text to have this mind among yourselves, that is to think and behave like Jesus in his self-emptying. In Matthew’s gospel, there is the same message: learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly of heart (Mt 11:29).

Humility is not difficult to recognize and not easy to define. At its root lies the truth: a balanced and accurate acceptance of who I am, with my gifts and needs, my strengths and weaknesses. Regarding the gifts and strengths, the just response is the gratitude that is the opposite of arrogance or pride. Regarding the needs and weaknesses, the humble response is the opening of the heart to the divine grace that makes all things well.

It may not be too difficult to humble yourselves before the Lord (Jas 4:10), but such humility must overflow into the realm of human relationships, the way in which we treat other people. True humility is different from a self-serving subservience towards the important and the powerful. The flattering Pharisees tell Jesus, you do not regard the position of men (Mt 22:16). They are right: for him all must be treated with equal attention and respect. In practice it might mean listening well to what the other person has to say; noticing and greeting not only the vip but also his/her driver or assistant; not standing on one’s dignity but being gently approachable.

Holy Week starts this Sunday with a powerful selection of scriptural texts: the gospel of the procession, Isaiah and Philippians, the narrative of the Passion according to Mark. Certainly we will have much opportunity to ponder the Word of God so as to find a deeper experience of the paschal mystery. Maybe the example of Jesus can prompt us also to purify and simplify our daily relationships in the humility that is the remedy for pride and self-sufficiency.

By Fr Edmund Power osb