Jesus’ state was divine, yet he did not cling to equality with God, but he emptied himself. —Philippians 2:6–7
This week’s meditations focus on a surrendering love, particularly as modeled by Jesus. Father Richard Rohr reflects on Jesus’ intentional path of descent:
In the overflow of rich themes on Palm Sunday, I am going to direct us toward the great parabolic movement described in Philippians 2. Most consider that this was originally a hymn sung in the early Christian community. To give us an honest entranceway, let me offer a life-changing quote from C. G. Jung’s (1875–1961) Psychological Reflections:
In the secret hour of life’s midday the parabola is reversed, death is born. The second half of life does not signify ascent, unfolding, increase, exuberance, but death, since the end is its goal. The negation of life’s fulfilment is synonymous with the refusal to accept its ending. Both mean not wanting to live, and not wanting to live is identical with not wanting to die. Waxing and waning make one curve. 
The hymn from Philippians artistically, honestly, yet boldly describes that “secret hour” Jung refers to, when God in Christ reversed the parabola, when the waxing became waning. It says it starts with the great self-emptying or kenosis that we call the Incarnation and ends with the Crucifixion. It brilliantly connects the two mysteries as one movement, down, down, down into the enfleshment of creation, into humanity’s depths and sadness, and into a final identification with those at the very bottom (“took the form of a slave,” Philippians 2:7). Jesus represents God’s total solidarity with, and even love of, the human situation, as if to say, “nothing human is abhorrent to me.” God, if Jesus is right, has chosen to descend—in almost total counterpoint with our humanity that is always trying to climb, achieve, perform, and prove itself.
This hymn says that Jesus leaves the ascent to God, in God’s way, and in God’s time. Most of us understandably start the journey assuming that God is “up there,” and our job is to transcend this world to find “him.” We spend so much time trying to get “up there,” we miss that God’s big leap in Jesus was to come “down here.” What freedom! And it happens better than any could have expected. “Because of this, God lifted him up” (Philippians 2:9). We call the “lifting up” resurrection or ascension. Jesus is set as the human blueprint, the standard in the sky, the oh-so-hopeful pattern of divine transformation.
Trust the down, and God will take care of the up. This leaves humanity in solidarity with the life cycle, but also with one another, with no need to create success stories for ourselves or to create failure stories for others. Humanity in Jesus is free to be human and soulful instead of any false climbing into “Spirit.” This was supposed to change everything, and I trust it still will.
 C. G. Jung: Psychological Reflections: A New Anthology of His Writings, 1905–1961, ed. Jolande Jacobi (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970), 323.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2011), 122–124.
Explore Further. . .
- Listen to Richard preach a Palm Sunday homily.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Leaves (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Christ Figure from the Office of Richard Rohr (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Web (detail), 2021, photograph, Washington, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: Fallen leaves in water surrender to the cycles of seasons. A spider’s web catches and kills a passing fly. Can we surrender to these moments too? Death is an invitation to slip beyond the web of knowing. What might we find if we allowed the cycle of death and resurrection in our own lives?
Story from Our Community:
Providing daily care to my loved one for eight years has been transformational. With each conflict and fear, I look for the good and holy. The angst, fear, and resentments have morphed into a softened, peaceful, and contented life. Experimenting with surrender, acceptance, faith, and hope, I eventually realized I don’t need to sustain my loved one and myself. God is sustaining us. I see it. I feel it.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.