A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

In human relationships we tend to run the spectrum from positive caring to negative criticism.  Namely, from “good buddy” to “I can’t stand him/her.”  The curious thing  about human relationships is that these ambivalent feelings can occur within a short time, or even simultaneously.

In today’s liturgy (Palm Sunday),  we see an ambivalence of feeling toward Jesus.  For example, from the people’s  joyous celebration of Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem, to their anger during his trial, when they shouted “crucify him.” 

What happened to bring about this ambivalent feeling?  In the Gospel reading (Luke 22:14-23:56), we notice two situations that may help us to understand: (1)-The Last Supper, and (2)-The Garden of Gethsemane.

At the last supper we note the situation of Judas, who was a strong supporter of Jesus and yet betrayed him.  Then there is the case of the apostles who were quarreling with each other arguing who would be the “greatest” in God’s kingdom.  Jesus settled that dispute by washing their feet and consequently emphasizing the importance of service to others. 

But it was Peter who was the most demonstrative of his ambivalence.  He loudly proclaimed his support of Jesus, no matter what.  Yet, he wound up denying Jesus several times.  Judas, the apostles and Peter were ambivalent.

While in prayer in Gethsemane, Jesus was aware of the the ambivalence of his friends, which indicated that their commitment was not strong enough to withstand the constant onslaughts that were to come.  It was at this momemt of doubt that he prayed to God his Father:  “Father, your will, not mine be done.”  Jesus dealt with the ambivalence of his friends by entrusting the outcome to God the Father.

Ambivalence is much like temptation where decision affects actions.  Entrusting the outcome of ambivalence to God the Father means that prayerful hope is expressed that the hearts of the guilty will be opened to choose for God instead of against him.  The “opened heart” makes the correct decision which results in proper moral action.

We become ambivalent when the positive and negative sides of an issue seem equal in our thinking. Our choice will depend upon our ability to judge the effectiveness of both actions.  That is why Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane is so helpful.  God’s choice may be ours as well–if not now, maybe later. 

Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane),...

Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane), oil painting by Heinrich Ferdinand Hofmann (Heinrich Hofmann). The original is at the Riverside Church (Riverside Church, New York City). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




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