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True Humility
April 2, 2023, 1:00 AM

Sunday of the Passion / Palm Sunday

The servanthood of a teacher in Isaiah, the outcast in the psalm, those who bow down in Philippians: today’s readings teach humility. On this day we move from Christ’s triumphant ride on a humble donkey to the humiliation of the cross. The humility of the characters in the passion story is in question: Judas, Pilate, the Twelve, chief priests and elders, Barabbas, the crowd, the soldiers, two bandits. Among other things, their lack of humility is what brings about the passion of Christ. There is only one truly humble person in this story: Jesus the Christ. Matthew’s humble Jesus cries out from the cross to ask God why he has been forsaken.

Only in the stories of the resurrection do other humble characters appear: the centurion, the women, Joseph of Arimathea. A careful look at the complexity of humility in the palm and passion stories could set up a reflective theme carried through to Easter. Who in each story do we regard as humble? Why? How does our humility compare? Are there characters who seem to gain or lose humility in the course of the story from the triumphant entry to the resurrection? A deep and meaningful understanding of humility is a worthy and lasting gift to take away from the season of Lent and the celebration of Easter.

Joseph of Arimathea is a particularly good character on which to base an understanding of humility. A close look at all references to him in the Gospels, and a bit of creative narrative, create an image of a truly humble believer. He is referenced in both canonical and apocryphal texts. His devotion represents deep humility that leads to the very finest of good works as he cares for the body of Jesus.