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Palm/Passion Sunday

March 28, 2010

Blessed Palm Sunday!

We are entering into the most holy days of the Church year,
intensifying our preparation to unite ourselves with Jesus in His Passion and Death
as He leads us through tragedy into triumph.
You will notice that we do not celebrate any saints this week or next.
Nothing may interrupt these high holy days.

The palms we receive today are blessed–they’re sacramentals (sources of grace)
that are intended to remind us of Jesus’ victory over sin and death
(palms have long been symbols of victory).
That means they must be treated with reverence.
One common practise is to make crosses of them
and tuck these crosses behind holy pictures or crucifixes hanging in your home.
Instructions for making simple palm crosses can be found here:
http://www.kidssundayschool.com/Gradeschool/Crafts/1craft08.php.
If you need to dispose of old palms (or scraps from making palm crosses),
they should be reverently burned or buried in a place that will not be disturbed–
not thrown away (this is true of all blessed items of devotion).

Almighty, ever-living God,
You have given the human race Jesus Christ our Savior
as a model of humility.
He fulfilled Your will by becoming Man
and giving His life on the cross.
Help us to bear witness to You by following His example of suffering
and make us worthy to share in His resurrection.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for today’s Mass)

Readings:
+Luke 19:28-40 (Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem)
Isaiah 50:4-7 (God’s messenger is not deterred by violence)
Psalm 22:8-24 “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?”
Philippians 2:6-11 (Jesus emptied Himself)
+Luke 22:14-23:56 (the Passion)

“Untie [the ass] and bring it here…The Lord has need of it” (Luke 19:30, 31).

The Lord has need of it?
The Creator of the universe, Who gives to all life and breath and everything else
has no need of anything! (see Acts 17:25, Psalm 50:8-12)
Yet He Who owns this ass (and everything else in the cosmos) already,
is borrowing it from us as if it was ours.

What humility! Truly “He emptied Himself”! (Philippians 2:7)

This beast is an image of our human nature.
St. Francis of Assisi popularized the custom of calling the body
(the “animal” part of our nature) “Brother Ass”, but it didn’t start with him.

“Lord has need of the colt,
because He would have us loosed from the chain of our sins.”
-Origin, quoted in the Catena Aurea,
compiled by St. Thomas Aquinas

We, in our human nature, like the ass Jesus borrowed, were tied up in the bondage of sin.
“Untie it, ” Jesus said to His Apostles, His first priests, “and bring it here” (Luke 19:30).

Untie it and bring it here.
That process had started nearly 34 years earlier,
when Mary loosed the knot of Eve’s disobedience
so that our human nature could be lead back–united–to the New Adam,
conceived in her womb:

“the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.
For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief,
this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.”
-St. Irenaeus of Lyons, “Against Heresies”, ch. 22, p. 4

There was some opposition.
“If anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying the beast?’
say, ‘The Lord has need of it’” (Luke 19:31).

Mary did question the angel’s extraordinary announcement,
but once Gabriel explained that God had chosen to “need” her,
she gave her consent (Luke 1:34-38).

Jesus followed this same pattern throughout His public ministry,
loosing people from the bondage of sickness, sin and death
(“untie him and let him go”, John 11:44, etc.)
and calling them to Himself (“bring him here to Me!” Matthew 17:16, etc.).
He met with resistance. Demons and Pharisees protested
(Matthew 8:28, John 5:10-18, etc.),
but wherever there was faith, wherever people cooperated with God’s “need” of them,
His will prevailed and they were freed
(see Mark 6:5 for the consequences of a lack of faith).

Here, at the end of the road, He again calls for our release.
He would give to our freed human nature
the honor of bearing Him in triumph into the Holy City as He is acclaimed as King!

To our bound human nature, He gave the honor of being the instrument of His Passion,
through which He would free us once and for all.
Even here the Lord humbles Himself “to have need of it.”

Today, Jesus still sends His Apostles, His priests and bishops,
to untie us from the chains of sin and to lead us to Him.
Being human, we protest. “Why?!”

“The Lord has need of it.”

May we say with the Blessed Virgin,
“Let it be done to me according to Your Word” (Luke 1:38).

Yours in the freedom of faith,

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