On Palm Sunday we read of Jesus' triumphal entry in the first Gospel outside the Church and then minutes later we dive into the Passion Narrative that culminates in Jesus' crucifixion and death. It is a whirlwind that you are supposed to get caught up into and swept along with and then the rest of Holy Week is spent unpacking this dramatic true story. I bet that you know both of those Gospels well, so I wanted to focus today on a "song" that we hear through these readings, namely Psalm 22. Psalm 22 begins with "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" People reveal what they are about in difficult moments. A crisis or a struggle very often reveals our real character and thereby what is most important to us. I've been blessed as a priest to sit with a few people through my ministry as they pass from this world, it's never a comfortable moment of course but sometimes there is a hidden beauty that God shines on it. Some people are worried, anxious about all the many affairs that are out of their control. Some are still struggling with past sins or past faults that they never corrected and even at the end are fighting with. However, there are some beautiful people that in their final moments reveal wonderfully what they are about. These are the ones who make sure to tell family and friends that they are all loved, these are the ones who trust the Church as a guide between this world and the next, and most beautifully they approach the moment focused on God and not on themselves.
Jesus reveals what He is about in every moment of His life. However, on the cross this is made explicit. He forgives, He entrusts His mother to John, and He gives glory to the Father. You see there's more to the story than most people know, when Jesus finally utters those terrible words of Psalm 22 He isn't just revealing the anguish and total sacrifice that He is enduring. It was customary for a rabbi or religious leader to quote from the beginning of a text as an invocation of the whole passage and an invitation for others to join him in praying it. We Catholics still do this of course, the priest during mass intones things like the penitential rite, the gloria, the creed, and the Our Father. When everyone needs to proclaim something together the Priest will lead people into it by saying the first line. So, Jesus wants to lead us through psalm 22.
It is heartbreaking, from the first line of anguish through lines such as "All who see me mock me..", "They have pierced my hands and my feet, I can count all my bones", and "they divide my garments among them, for my clothing they cast lots" any person who even vaguely knows the story of Jesus knows there is something eerily mystical about this song written hundreds of years prior to Jesus' invocation. The psalm cuts through every struggle and sadness and then through this cry there is a beautiful trusting turn as those who sing it know that God hears, answers, and acts to save them. The remainder of the psalm speaks of God's deliverance, an offering of life to those who have died, faithfulness, and joyful praise of God. The psalm ends like this: "The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought." We could spend a whole year going through this psalm, but I just want to make this one point crystal clear. At the moment of Jesus' death when He delivers us from sin, He reveals what He is about and it can be summed up like this, at the moment of His death He is thinking about His Father and YOU. You were yet to be born, yet to have the Gospel proclaimed to you, yet to even know Christ and He was offering His life for your sake! Your life is not your own. Your life is not about you. Your life has beautifully been claimed by the Savior from His Cross. My friends, don't you see that there is more to your story than just what you have written in your own life? Your family, friends, faith, and everything about you is caught up in this greater story of God's love for the world. Even now, especially now, He is inviting you into that story or that song, He wants you to join Him and learn what you should really be about! Sometimes God might invoke your response through trial like psalm 22. Other times He might invoke it through blessing or beauty, but it is all to draw you into this deeper story of love, deliverance, and praise of God the Father. We know that there are some people that do not pick up the song, they do not respond to the Lord's invitation, but that cannot be you! Now is the time to enter into that story more deeply, to immerse yourself in this Holy Week, to allow yourself to get caught up by its beauty and depth. It is not an accident in the psalmody or in God's providence that after the great struggle and deliverance of Psalm 22, the psalmist then sings the famous Psalm 23 of the Good Shepherd.