REFLECTION ON THE PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION. APRIL 5, 2020.
Short Gospel :
Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24.
Passion: Gospel of Mathew 26:14—27:66 OR 27:11-54
“As to the Passion of our Lord, …never in anything follow your own will and your own inclination, for that was the cause of His death and passion” – St John of the Cross
My dearest friends, today we celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to accomplish His salvific mission. Today marks the beginning of the Holy Week. Our celebration today is one of mixed feelings. A celebration that began with triumphant songs of kingly praises but culminated in a sorrowful passion of betrayal and condemnation. It was not the Jews but you and I who betrayed and condemned Him to death.
We have entered into the holiest of all weeks. A week in which the mystery of our salvation was accomplished through the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Christ. A week that defines our existence as Christians and gives meaning to our lives as God’s children. We are not simply recounting history or retelling a story that happened thousands of years ago. Neither are we remembering a past event that we are simply reliving and re-enacting i.e. living out presently. We should consciously be participating with Christ in everything He underwent to gain our freedom and salvation. “…We can’t let Holy Week be just a kind of commemoration. It means contemplating the mystery of Jesus Christ as something which continues to work in our souls.” –St. Josemaria Escriva
In this way, proper participation in the Holy Week liturgy will deepen our relationship with God, increase our faith and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus. Let us remember that Holy Week can become “holy” for us only if we actively and consciously take part in the liturgies of this week. This is also the week when we should lighten the burden of Christ’s Passion as daily experienced by the hungry, the poor, the sick, the homeless, the lonel²y and the outcast through our corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
The readings of today have contrasting moments of glory and suffering. Joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain contain the two extremes of human experience. Jesus also experienced the joy of a kingly and triumphant welcome as well the sorrows of betrayal, an unjust trial, and condemnation which culminated in His suffering and death. These are the dynamics of human experience. Jesus experienced these because He is truly human. To deny His humanity is to reject His suffering as a truly human experience. We too daily experience moments of joy and sorrows, but in His sufferings, we draw our strength.
In the first reading From the third Servant Song of Isaiah 50:4-7, Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs, and the Church refers to them in this time of solemn meditation on the climax of Jesus’ life.
The second reading from Philippians 2:6-11 is an ancient Christian hymn representing a very early Christian understanding of who Jesus is, and of how His mission saves us from sin and death. This reading reminds us that our Lord willingly surrendered Himself to experience suffering and humiliation for our sake. He did not cling to His divinity but became man in order to redeem men. He humbled himself further in His humanity to be enslaved like a servant; obediently embracing suffering, death, and crucifixion for our sake. Let us stop humiliating and betraying Him by our sins.
The Gospel today has two parts. The first part read before the procession with palms describes the royal reception which Jesus received from His admirers. Jesus permitted such a royal procession for two reasons: 1) to reveal to the general public that he was the promised Messiah, and 2) to fulfill the prophecies of Zechariah (9:9) and Zephaniah(3:16-19): “Rejoice, heart and soul, daughter of Zion…In the second part, we listened to the passion narrative according to Mathew. In this Passion narrative, we are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the story like Peter who denied Jesus; Judas who betrayed Jesus with a simple kiss; Pilate who acted against his conscience; Herod who ridiculed Jesus, and the leaders of the people who preserved their position by getting rid of Jesus. Most times in our life, we too deny, betray, ridicule, act against our conscience and persevere in our position in justifying evil and in condemning an innocent person. Jesus endured all these for our sake. May we allow His passion to transform our lives and deepen our love for Him. May we never deny him in times of challenges as we are experiencing the pandemic of coronavirus. May we never allow money or material things to come between us and God. May we never act against our conscience in matters of morality and justice. May nothing separate us from the love of Christ.
Let us welcome Jesus into our hearts and into our homes. Let us lay down our sins at His feet and allow Him to trample on them, to sanctify us. Let us be reminded that Christ is the King of our families, that Christ is the King of our hearts and that Christ is the only true answer to our quest for happiness, healing, and meaning in our lives.
Let the experience of this Holy Week strengthen us in our various difficulties and challenges of life especially at this time of the pandemic. Let us know that suffering and pain is an inevitable part of our human experience. No one wants to experience it. Many try to avoid it at all costs, but Holy Week reminds us that it is through suffering that we enter into victory. Without the cross, there cannot be a crown. So be a strong child of God in your sufferings. Don’t deny Christ because of your hard experiences because if you remain strong and faithful to Him, you will also share in His victory someday.
Let us offer Christ our donkeys. If someone had not let go of their donkey, who knows if Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem would not have been as triumphant as it was. Jesus needs our sacrifices to support the Church and suffering humanity. Our little sacrificial gifts go a long way in relieving the crosses of many who are suffering. Let us be generous and kind. “It may well be that the world is denied a miracle after miracle and triumph after triumph because we will not bring to Christ what we have and what we are. If just as we are, we would lay ourselves on the altar of service of Jesus Christ, there is no saying what Christ could do with us and through us“.–William Barclay
FOR YOUR PRIVATE CONFESSION
While it may not be possible for you to go to confessions to a priest at this time, speak to God your father and sincerely show deep contrition for your sins. Let your penance be forgiveness for those that hurt you and reconciliation with them. Ask for forgiveness from those you hurt and show remorse for all the hurt. Make restitution in any way you can to those you unjustly deprived of their means of livelihood. Make a sincere resolution not to sin again. And finally say some prayers and the act of contrition. It is your sincere contrition and firm purpose of amendment that earns you God’s forgiveness.
Do not be distracted by the media or anything else this week. Let’s Meditate deeply on the mysteries we celebrate, and worry less about the pandemic, in this holy week. Let us enable others to see in us Jesus’universal love, unconditional forgiveness, and sacrificial service.
May the experience of the Holy week renew and restore your faith in God. May you receive the grace to be a better child of God. May it strengthen you in these of difficult times. May you see beyond your sufferings now, the victory that lies ahead.
I keep you, your family and loved ones always in my prayers. Do pray for us too.
©Clem Mezie Aladi.