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3/25/18 Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord - Fr. Reggie

With this liturgy, we stand at the threshold of Holy Week, the week in which we commemorate the most profound mysteries of life and death, of God and man, of love and sin. We’ve prepared for forty days to step into Holy Week and remind ourselves that by doing so we step into a new life won for us by Christ at a high cost. We mustn’t take this step lightly.

We have two Gospels today, one before the procession, and one narrating the Passion. In the first Gospel Matthew reminds us that Our Lord took the first step humbly, just as we should do. He didn’t commandeer the ass on which he rode into Jerusalem; he borrowed it. His disciples made a great commotion with a lot of fanfare, but they also showed at the same time that they still didn’t completely get it. “Hosanna to the Son of David”: He was the Messiah, and they expected him to clean house, to become a great political and military leader with miracles and fulminations in his wake. “This is Jesus the prophet”: He was the miracle machine. We know he was more than a prophet or a  political leader with divine aid, and we also know his mission was conquest by Cross. Within a day their convictions were shaken to the core. Holy Week is a time for considering our convictions in the light of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection. They may need some shaking up too.

In today’s First Reading the prophet Isaiah, describing the Suffering Servant reminds us that Our Lord knew he was in for suffering, but if it was in the Lord’s service, it was worth it. We call today “Passion” Sunday not because of Our Lord’s passionate love for us, even though he does love us passionately in the true sense of the term. Passion comes from the Latin word passio, which means suffering, undergoing something. Our Lord enters Jerusalem knowing a new level of suffering is at hand, but he does not hesitate because the stakes are our salvation. If we think life is hard, imagine how hard it was to set Heaven aside even a moment and become a man as Jesus did. He not only became man, he became a servant of all, and servant who suffered for all.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that Christ had no need or desire for more glory, yet he did something for us and for his Father worthy of even greater glory. His Incarnation was lowly and poor. He didn’t take half-measures in his mission by becoming a child of royalty living in palaces. God became a slave. For us. He taught us humility and obedience so that we would follow his example.

In today’s Passion narrative we walk with him in his last hours of angst, betrayal, solitude, and pain when what he sought from us (and for us) was peace, loyalty, communion, and joy. There’s not much more to say: Our Lord’s actions on our behalf say it all. Whenever we begin a Jubilee Year, the local cathedral and other designated churches have a holy door opened or designated so that the faithful can come in pilgrimage. Crossing the threshold of that holy door is a statement of our intent and our attitude. We are not just visiting the church; we are on pilgrimage due to the special occasion at hand, and we know special graces are in store due to our devotion. Today with the start of Holy Week we have the same opportunity. We’re not just celebrating another Sunday and returning to work on Monday. What are our intention and our attitude as we process into Holy Week? We’re not just celebrating another Sunday and returning to work on Monday. The minimum is Palm Sunday, then Easter Sunday, but this week is the most liturgically packed time of the year, especially starting on Holy Thursday. Consider attending at least one liturgy beyond the ones that are obligatory: why not the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, or the Easter Vigil instead of Mass during the day on Easter Sunday?

You can live each day and moment of Holy Week amidst your day to day chores and occupations even if you can’t attend additional liturgies. Consider Our Lord’s last few days in Jerusalem or Judas going out to betray him (Monday through Thursday morning). Consider the institution of the Priesthood and the Eucharist, and Jesus’ commandment to love (Thursday evening). Consider Gethsemane and his capture (late Thursday evening). Stand at his side when he is facing Pilate, or at the foot of his Cross at Calvary (Friday), sit with him in the tomb, or go to wherever Mary or one of the disciples (late Friday through Saturday) is suffering in silence and solitude and speak with them. Whether you attend the liturgies or take time out throughout the week, spend it with Our Lord.



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