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Palm/Passion Sunday

April 17, 2011

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.
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)

+Matthew 21:1-11 (Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem)
Isaiah 50:4-7 (God’s noble servant is not deterred by suffering and insult)
Psalm 22:8-24 “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Philippians 2:6-11 (because Jesus emptied Himself, God has exalted Him)
+Matthew 26:14-27:66 (Jesus’ Passion and death)

Your king comes to you humbly
-Matthew 21:5

He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave.
-Philippians 2:7

We have mixed reactions to that.
On the one hand, it’s kinda sweet.
Our King isn’t stuck-up, aloof or domineering.
He’s riding into town on a little donkey, surrounded by common people–
no hoity-toity “keep away” fuss here.
We like that.

On the other hand, He’s not giving our enemies the heave-ho, either.
Yes, He can be firm when He wants to be,
but His standards are rather different from ours on that point.
He loves the scoundrels!
He will sacrifice Himself for them…and allow us to suffer in the process


We’re not so fond of that.

Nor do we quite know what to do with His kind of humility.
The humility we know is weak.
It’s based on minimizing our own social discomfort–
making choices based on others’ likely reactions (one way or the other).
It can’t hold its own.

It’s handy when it lets us get our way–
frightening when it gives our enemies the upper hand–
but at least we have a handle on it.
It’s very familiar.

Jesus’ humility is radically different.
It’s strong.
It’s based on what God wants, on Reality;
pursuing His holy will, come what may.

I have not rebelled, have not turned back…
I have set my face like flint
-Isaiah 50:5, 7

It’s based on divine, self-sacrificial love.
seeing in the other the divine image
and doing whatever it takes to perfect that identity.

It’s handy when it brings us pleasure–
frightening when it allows suffering to prune and sharpen and refine us–
but it’s so alien to our experience!

We just don’t expect it, and hence we misinterpret it.
We keep getting jolted when God follows His logic instead of ours.

We didn’t expect our king to reign from an instrument of public degradation.
We didn’t expect His crown to be made of thorns,
nor His royal decrees to be words like
Father, forgive them. They know not what they do
-Luke 23:34
We thought He was going to rescue us from suffering…not sin.

He scandalizes us!



…unless we put on the mind of Christ (see Philippians 2:5)…

That’s what the sacraments empower us to do.
In Baptism, we put on Christ (see Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:24).
In Confirmation we were clothed with power from on high,
with Jesus’ own Spirit, Who gives us the mind of Christ
(see Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8, I Corinthians 2:10-16).
Confession strips away the veil
that blinds those who are headed for destruction (see I Corinthians 4:3-4),
and in the Most Holy Eucharist, Jesus Himself enters us Bodily.

The more we frequent the sacraments with attention, awareness and devotion,
the more that which was alien becomes familiar.
The more we begin to think and feel and respond
with the mind of Christ.

Our king comes to us humbly.
He comes in the strength of the self-sacrificial love that empowers true human dignity.
We must become like Him.

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