“This is my Body, which will be given up for you.” These words, nestled into the heart of this weekend’s Palm Sunday readings, might not be the first to come to mind when we consider this Sunday’s rituals. Far more evocative are the waving of the palms, the cries of “hosanna to the Son of David,” and then later, the reading of the Passion, and the cries of “crucify him, crucify him!” Yet in the simple words with which Christ celebrates the first Mass, recounted for us at the beginning of the Passion narrative, lies the true meaning of all our celebration: Christ’s generous and perfect love in the face of our spiritual poverty and need.
The readings, as they do each year at this moment, emphasize the fickleness and instability of the crowds, the disciples, and by extension, us. At the beginning of Mass, the crowds hail Christ as King, going to great lengths to smooth the path even for the humble donkey He rides. By the end of the Passion, not only has the general crowd rejected Christ entirely, calling for His torture and death, but even His friends betray Him. Luke’s account gives us the story of two Apostles in particular. Judas, of course, guides the authorities to Christ and betrays Him with a wicked kiss. Then Peter, despite having been warned of his coming trial, denies Jesus three times before realizing what he has done and running, weeping bitter tears as he goes. The rest of the Apostles, save John, scatter. Wherever we look at the merely human in our readings today, we see chaos, instability, change, and failure of some kind. If we have honestly taken stock of our own souls this Lent, each of us can point to places in our lives where we too, in ways great or small, have turned away from the friendship of Christ. We, like all others, have not had the ability to remain faithful to God on our own.
Yet, how does the Lord answer all of this weakness present in the people He made and loves? We mentioned it at the beginning: “this is my Body, which will be given up for you.” The Lord, seeing our weakness, our frailty, our confusion, our fear, and our sin, continued to love us, and chose to offer Himself for our sake. He chose to die the death our sins deserved so that we could live. He chose to be lament the sins that don’t yet even bother us, so that we could rejoice with the Father. He offers His body as the price for the resurrection of our bodies, His blood for our blood, His heart for our hearts. Not only this, but He left us forever a sign, and more than a sign, of that great offering in the form of the Holy Eucharist. We do not merely have to remember that Christ our God handed Himself over to free us. That offering lives in our churches, made truly present at every Mass. There, Jesus in His body and blood renews the one offering He made during His Passion, every day, in times and places that are multiplied for our convenience.
As we begin Holy Week and turn our minds to consider the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ for us, we should remember that in the Eucharist, we can contemplate this total act of love every single day. He has given us such constancy in the face of our instability. The least we can do to begin accepting that unconquered love is reverently to believe in, to hope in, and to love Jesus present in the Eucharist, resting in our Tabernacle.