Today on Palm Sunday as the second reading, the Church gives us a beautiful Christological hymn from Saint Paul. Philippians 2:6-11 speaks about the kenosis, the “self-emptying” of Jesus. While maintaining the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus, Paul says that Jesus voluntarily condescended and “emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave” (v. 7); he did this in profound humility and freely accepted death on a cross. God the Father has exulted Jesus through the resurrection: Jesus is Lord and Savior of the world.
Voluntary Acceptance of Suffering. Turning to the Apostle Paul, we note that he preached the Gospel by his life and example. We know that vulnerability and acceptance of the cross authenticate mission. In imitation of Christ who gave himself up to death—even for sinners (Rom 5:8), Paul considers his suffering for the sake of the Gospel as a participation in the sufferings of Christ (2 Cor 1:5-7). Paul saw himself sharing in Christ’s kenosis (Phil 2:6-11) as he endured suffering. Writing to Timothy, he says: “… join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling” (2 Tim 1:8-9).
Paul recounts his numerous trials in the service of the Gospel; he mentions his imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks, travels, robberies, hard labor, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, and nakedness (cf. 2 Cor 11:23-27). Paul notes, “I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). Can we like Paul say: “May I never boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14)?
Genuine Leadership. In a 1977 book entitled Servant Leadership, Robert Greenleaf sought to describe the characteristics of an authentic leader, coining the term “servant leadership.” However, in the eyes of this world, “servant leadership” is a contradiction in terms. Why? Because so often in this world, servants do not lead, and leaders do not serve. Not so in the world of Jesus!
We all know that Satan’s motto is: “Non serviam. I will not serve.” And, those who are under Satan’s spell will tend to “Lord it over others” and “Make their importance felt.” We need to have the attitude of John the Baptist, who said: “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). I can only effectively act in imitation of Jesus if I learn the kenosis of servanthood. In this way, we become authentic models of Christ’s call to generously serve our neighbors, following Paul’s exhortation: “Have this same mind in you that was in Jesus” (Phil 2:5).
An Invitation. Friends, during our Holy Week journey, we endeavor to deeply appreciate Jesus’ call to kenosis, voluntary self-emptying, genuine humble service. We recall the oft-quoted words of Pope Francis: “Let us never forget that authentic power is service”!
James H. Kroeger, M.M.
Jesus, Messiah, Savior, Son of God!
with palms and songs of Hosanna
I welcome you into my heart,
and my soul as Lord of my life.
Accept my faults and weaknesses
and fill the void in my heart to overflowing
with your boundless grace and
Bless my emptiness that it may be
a fitting receptacle of your Spirit.
you who emptied yourself that you might
enter fully into our world of longing and
help me never to be satisfied
with anything less than your love.
I offer you my past, with its wounds;
my present, with its failures and disappointments;
and my future with its uncertainties.
Give me only your love and your grace
and let these be enough for me.
Let me drink fully from the wellspring
of your mercy and make up
with my sufferings whatever is lacking
for my deliverance and salvation.
May the radiance of your Cross
dispel all darkness and doubt
that I might join the saints and angels
in singing your praises forever.
Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M
Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)