25 March [Palm Sunday]
Mk 14:1—15:47

….At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, "Listen, he is calling for Elijah." And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down." Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last….

M. Kaeler described the gospels as "accounts of the death of Jesus, preceded by long introductions."  The essential Christian proclamation is, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."  The primary interest was the manner of his death, and that God raised him from death, giving us hope of rising with him. 

The Cross of Christ has been a potent symbol throughout the ages.  Its vertical axis, it has been said, joins heaven and earth, and its horizontal axis joins all ages and races of humankind; everything meets in the broken body of Christ. 

The Christian faith without the Cross is nothing.  The Cross tells us that our goodness is not good enough.  We cannot 'achieve' God by our own efforts: that would be to try to possess God as a sort of ornament on a life of achievement.  Our ego would indeed love to do this, and is always ready to imagine that it has done so in fact.  A popular writer of spiritual books that never mention the Cross of Christ said in an interview that for him the Cross was like a question-mark, or a giant hook, reaching up to heaven for an answer.  Christ is not necessary to such a spirituality.  It is well to explore the aesthetic aspects of the faith, but "we preach Christ crucified," wrote St Paul (1 Cor 1:23). 

The grave is a narrow place, and to suffer is distressing.  But this is the narrow road that leads to life.   First of all, the Scriptures, and then the saints and mystics, vouch for this.  First the narrow way, then the opening out.  Here are a few of the many texts that could be quoted to illustrate this:

  • "The gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life" (Mt 7:14).
  • Meister Eckhart said, "The more the soul is collected [focused], the narrower she is, and the narrower, the wider." 
  • Mde Guyon, the 18th-century French mystic, wrote, "How very narrow is the gate which leads to a life in God! - and how little one must be to pass through it; it is nothing else but death to self!  But when we have passed through it, what enlargement we find!  David said, (Ps 18:19) 'He brought me forth into a large place.'"
  • Her mentor, Bishop Fénelon, wrote, "When we are faithful in instantly dropping all superfluous and restless reflections, which arise from a self-love that is totally different from charity, we shall be set in a large place even in the midst of the strait and narrow path."   He also wrote, "We are in a narrowplace, indeed, when we are enclosed in self, but when we emerge from that prison, and enter into the immensity of God and the liberty of his children, we are set at large."

A Christianity without the Cross has never worked, and it is never likely to do so.  It takes a crucified Church to bring a crucified Christ before the eyes of the world. 


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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