Passion Sunday

Human Beings in their Highest Form are Selfless
The Holiest are not Interested in Merit but in Following the Will of Heaven

First Reading (Is 50: 4-7): The Servant of the Lord
Second Reading (Phil 2: 6-11): He humbled himself becoming obedient even unto death
Gospel (Mk 14: 1-15: 47): Passion and Death of Jesus Christ
Chinese Classics:
-“Honor or disgrace does not alarm. At the front of the courtyard see the flowers bloom and fall. Uninterested in going or staying, up in the sky let the clouds roll and unroll.”(1)
-“It is upon bad fortune that good fortune leans, upon good fortune that bad fortune rests.”(2)
–“The highest good is like that of water.”( 3)
-“Suppose someone rides on the true course of heaven and earth, and harnesses the changes of the six vital elements (yin, yang, wind, rain, darkness ,light), to travel in the infinite. On what else is there for him to expect? Therefore it is said, ‘The perfect man cares not for Self, the holy man cares not for merit, the sage cares not for renown.”(4)

“Morning by morning the Lord God wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious. I did not turn backwards. I gave my back to those who struck me and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.) (Is 50: 4-7)

In this passage the prophet Isaiah is talking about the “Servant of the Lord.” The Church has always said that the Servant of the Lord is the Messiah, that is, Jesus Christ. In today's Scripture reading we are told that this servant also needed to learn and continue to learn throughout his life, learn how to submit to the Father's will and conform his life ever more perfectly to God the Father’s will and demands.

There are two elements in the Servant's learning process: one, the Lord, and the other, the Servant himself. God was calling him, awakening him, also he must respond to God's call so that he would always be alert and ready to learn. God opened the Servant's ears and he must willingly respond to God, opening his ears, heart and soul to allow God to touch him and lead him. What the Servant must try to do with all his strength was to obey God with absolutely no resistance, retreat or escape.

The Servant (Jesus Christ) also carried out in action what he had learned, or more precisely, he learned and put into practice at the same time. He acted and learned, learned and acted, continued to learn through practice and while practicing continued to learn.

The consequence of this ongoing learning of the Servant of the Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ, was that he emptied himself to a degree far beyond what anyone else could do. He learned to the point that he emptied himself entirely, molding himself completely according to the mind and heart of his Father, living in full accord to the Father's will.

Paul said, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” (Phil 2: 6-8)

Jesus truly is God. His life proceeded from his God-head to emptying himself, to becoming a slave, to humbling himself, to obedience, to death, even to death on the cross. What a magnificent equation, what an amazing, almost unbelievable process! It was truly a process of radical self-emptying, with nothing of self remaining.

There is a saying in the well-known Chinese work, 'Zen of Vegetable Roots': “Honor or disgrace does not alarm.' At the front courtyard see the flowers bloom and fall. Uninterested in going or staying behind, up in the sky let the clouds roll and unroll.” (1) Someone re-wrote it into a seven-syllable couplet: “Unmoved by the staying and going of honor or disgrace, watch the flowers and clouds in the front courtyard.” This gives it a different tone and flavor. The saying tells us that honor, disgrace, staying or remaining behind, are nothing more than flowers, grass, clouds and smoke. We should not take them seriously, or be unwilling to part with them. Such a viewpoint, taking success and failure, gain and loss, so lightly, is soothing, but there is a touch of passivity in its acceptance of adversity.

Lao Zi believed that “it is upon bad fortune that good fortune leans, upon good fortune that bad fortune rests.(2) “The highest good is like that of water.”(3) He saw through the material world and did not take good fortune and ill luck in life very seriously. Being 'the Servant of the Lord' is more than modeling oneself on Lao Zi's “The highest good is like that of water” or meeting adversity fearlessly with one's back or one's cheeks. It is giving oneself over completely to God's designs, willingly and joyfully accommodating one's entire life to God.

In Zhuang Zi's “Let Fancy Roam” there is an excellent description of the broad-mindedness of a great man. “Suppose someone rides on the true course of heaven and earth and harnesses the changes of the six vital elements (yin, yang, wind, rain, darkness, light) to travel in the infinite. On what else is there for him to expect? Therefore, as the saying goes, ‘The perfect man cares not for self, the holy man cares not for merit, the sage cares not for renown.’(4)

We have no idea who Zhuang Zi's selfless or holy man or sage, was. But Jesus Christ certainly merits this description.

He lived according to God's will, opening himself completely to accept God's plan. He knew about life, entered into human life, and lived it to the full. This surely was “Riding on the true course of heaven and earth.” He was fully divine and fully human, and was the most perfect among all human beings. Therefore he could make use of the changes of 'the six vital elements' (Yin, Yang, Wind, Rain, Darkness, Light) to meet all the uncertainties and confrontations of this life. He did not need to rely on anything else to roam about heaven and earth, and 'travel in the infinite.'

He was the selfless man, the holy man, the sage, because he had no self, no merit, no renown. No self because he was totally forgetful of self; no merit because he had no rank or occupation; no renown, because he did not seek reputation or position.

He emptied himself to live life to the full, facing life without fear, accepting all that life brought. He achieved perfect poverty of spirit, perfect selflessness. Therefore he was able to let his Father consume him into God's own life, fully, completely and without limit.

Jesus' life is the best example of what he called 'being poor in spirit.' “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5: 3). Because God himself is theirs.

(1)寵辱不驚,看庭前花開花落;去留無意,任天上雲捲雲舒。
(2)禍兮福之所倚,福兮禍之所伏。
(3)上善若水。
(4)乘天地之正,御六氣之變,以遊無窮者,惡乎待哉? 故至人無己,神人無功,聖人無名。