Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (C) - “The Master has need of it.”
Have you had the experience of having gone through something difficult and challenging - something that didn’t make any sense at the time - perhaps even something unjust and unfair and painful, and then years later, you realize how that time of trial was something that generated a good in you? As young people, we are often asked, usually by our parents, to do things that we don’t want to do or don’t like to do. “Clean your room. Wash your hands. Get a shower. Do your homework. Turn off the TV. Get off the computer. Put down your phone. Practice your instrument. Do your chores.” We often rebel at these requests and resist them because we don’t “see” the good in them. It doesn’t make sense when a parent says, “I need you to do that.” Or “I need you to stop doing that.” I often asks the kids who confess being disobedient, “Does your mom love you? Does your dad love you?” Without hesitation, they say, “yes, my mom loves me. My father loves me.” What that means, I tell them, is that your mother or father, since they love you, always wants what is best for you - they always want what is good for you. Therefore, they would never tell you to do something that was not for your good. Likewise, they would never tell you not to do something if doing that thing was not bad for you. We often will not see, discover, or receive the “good” unless we follow what they say until the end. We only see the wisdom in what we were “made to do” and the good that it generates in us when we’ve “grown up” and matured and have had to face other challenging situations later on in life. Folks of my generation will remember the classic movie “The Karate Kid”. The young Daniel wants to learn karate from the old master, Mr. Miyagi, and the first thing Mr. Miyagi does is have Daniel wax his car and paint his fence. “Wax on. Wax off.” “Brush up. Brush down.” Daniel doesn’t get it. He’s frustrated and wants to quit. But he perseveres in the lessons, and it is these “moves” which save him and bring about the victory when he is put to the test.
When Jesus is instructing the disciples to get things ready for the Passover meal - the meal that will become Jesus’ “Last Supper”, he says to them, “If anyone asks you why you are doing this, answer, “The Master has need of it.” When the disciples go off to carry out the task, they find everything just as Jesus has told them. Jesus knows what is going to happen. The answer that allows them to respond to any question or doubt is “The Master has need of it.” We can say that Jesus is revealing to his disciples his own attitude toward the Father in regard to his own suffering and death - the Passion he is about to undergo. “My Father who loves me has asked me to do this.” Jesus is obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, because he does not doubt the Father’s love for him and that this path will generate a good - it is the path to his destiny with the Father - the ultimate good. Not a disgrace, this path will be a source of grace and new life. There is a bond of deep affection between Jesus and the Father. Jesus’ love for the Father is what generates the obedience in him. He eagerly wishes to see the fulfillment of the Father’s plan for his good. That is why he does not rebel nor turn back. “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” He so much wants the kingdom of God to come. This path has been determined for him by the Father. The kingdom comes by serving the plan of another. Jesus will confer the kingdom on those who stand by him in his trial. He is showing them how to be men of service. We deny Jesus - we resist the path given to us when we are afraid of losing something. When Jesus predicts Peter’s denial he says to the disciples, “When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?” Jesus’ communion of love and openness to the Father’s will is expressed in his frequent and heartfelt prayer with the Father. We hear that prayer in the Garden of Gethsemene, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” He invites the disciples to follow him and to pray. Their sleeping from grief is a way for them not to face the reality. Jesus wakes them and again invites them to pray. When the betrayer comes, the disciples want to fight - they respond with violence, but Jesus tells them to stop. When on trial before the Sanhedrin and when presented to Pilate and Herod, Jesus does not argue or defend himself. To those who struggle with the cross but seek out Jesus, from Peter to the “Good thief”, Jesus responds with mercy. He helps them embrace the cross. It is this witness - freely and willingly embracing the cross - doing it out of love and responding with mercy, that reveals his divinity. The centurion whose job it was to put people to death - who probably witnessed men die every day on the cross, saw the way Jesus died and gave glory to God. We often ask “why” when it comes to the crosses given to us. Jesus invites us to follow him with patience in our suffering. He is praying for us. He asks us to pray with him, not to fight or to resist the cross, but to seek him - to seek the good that awaits. We may fall like Peter, but when we turn back to the Lord and receive his mercy, and are transformed by the grace of the cross, we can strengthen one another. The Passion of Christ is a witness to how much Christ loves us and loves the Father, and how he desires that we share in that love. “The Master has need of it” to bring about the Kingdom of God in our life. Moved by Christ’s love, may that be our humble response to the crosses given to us. Let’s pray for obedience - to have an open ear and an open heart to God’s will, for that is how the Lord exalts us and we witness his Resurrection.