Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Gloria, Laus et Honor

Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked. - Mark 14:51-52

Today, Palm Sunday, begins the holiest week of the Christian liturgical year. It begins with Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey and ends with his death and burial. Imagine the shock and dismay of the disciples as they see the one who they believed to be the Christ arrested and led off to be executed as a common criminal.

The above verses are peculiar to St. Mark's account of the passion of Jesus. After Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemene, all of his disciples fled for fear of their lives. However, there is this mention of a young man who followed behind them, but when seized, he ran away as well, and he was naked.

Any of us could be that young man clothed in a linen cloth. Linen is pure and white. We are purified when we are baptized into Christ's suffering and raised to new life. When placed in situations which are frightening and lead to suffering, it is common for us to rebel and to run away from that which would unite us with the suffering of the Lord. This leaves us vulnerable to sin and despair. It leaves us naked.

If Jesus' passion taught us anything it is that love overcomes death. In hindsight we know how the story ends as we celebrate on Easter the glorious resurrection of the Lord. In all honesty, it is more understandable that the disciples flee out of fear than it is for those of us who believe in the resurrection yet still run away in fear. We have the benefit of hindsight, the knowledge that Christ is risen from the dead, so what is there for us to fear? But we fear anyway. Fear suffering, fear death.

I am often reminded of something that I read about Pope John Paul II. The theme of his papacy was "Do not be afraid." He was not afraid for one reason, and it is a reason which should comfort all people. He was not afraid because the worst thing that could possibly happen in the universe has happened. God died. But he rose from the dead and in doing so conquered death. There is nothing worse that can happen.

So, back to that young man. Tradition says that it was St. Mark himself, and he inserted himself into the passion account as a way of humbling himself. A constant and eternal reminder of his weakness in the face of fear. A reminder of his lack of trust in the Lord, a lack of trust which rendered him naked in the face of great evil.

Hosanna filio David!
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Rex Israel, hosanna in excelsis!


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