Wednesday, March 25, 2015

From March Gladness to Madness!

Mark 14:1-15, 47
Here in the USA, NCAA March Madness has been set in motion. It is all about college basketball tournaments in men’s and women’s respective divisions. Sports related sites state: it is “a feverish month of college basketball filled with more than 60 games across the country,” and “three weeks of legendary performances, fantastic finishes — and the alternating agony and ecstasy of predictions gone right or wrong.” Well this is the extent of my sports expertise. Unfortunately, I can’t tell the difference between brackets and braces or sort out the groupings of The Final Four or The Magnificent Seven!  However, I think this March Madness term can be a clue as to what will happen in the Scriptures as we attend to the readings of the Passion during Holy Week.

In March of 2013, we all with some form of technology or in person gathered around a little chimney to watch it produce white smoke to signal the election of a new pope.  Eventually, Francis appeared on the draped balcony amidst red robed cardinals and “priests in waiting.” The days kept building with March Gladness in preparation for the pope’s inauguration when he would be presented with the Pallium, the Ring, and the Book of the Gospels signifying the beginning of his pontificate.

His election became even more of a reality when throngs of people in the square outside St. Peter’s Basilica appeared including marching bands, Swiss Guards in their finest, clergy in their finest as well, with trumpets blaring, and with Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, heads of the official delegations from various countries, accompanied with vested cardinals in attendance. Again, this is the extent of my hierarchy expertise.  However, I believe this March Gladness was to be a clue as to what we would hear happen in the Scriptures during Holy Week.

Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday, presents us with the reading of the Passion after processing with palms. Then we listen to the reading of the Gospel of Mark. He does not have the parade of peoples as Luke, but we celebrate this threshold as we enter deeper into the Paschal Mystery.  Here begins the March Gladness which will eventually be turned into March Madness on Good Friday . . . These readings are filled with much symbolism. I suggest you consider reading a biblical commentary, i.e., Preaching the New Lectionary by Dianne Bergant, Year B. 

Jesus enters Jerusalem riding upon a colt, no Popemobile for him. He will meet throngs of people cheering Hosannas now and later hurling shouts of “crucify him.” Religious and political leaders presently puzzled now, already plotting in their hearts how to get rid of this “presence that disturbs.” No banners, no bands, no ring, no Pallium of lamb’s wool. For you see, he is the “sacrificial lamb.” No Book of the Gospels - for he is Word;  he is the Good News that now comes in gladness only to enter into the Good Friday madness of darkness, anger, and hate. He will stare evil in the face – this, too, will be a legendary performance with a fantastic finish - alternating with the agony and ecstasy of predictions gone right - gone Mysteriously right!
Caravaggio 1573 – 1610

The Betrayal of Christ

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