Sunday, April 1, 2007

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion
C cycle

Reading 1. Isaiah 50: 4-7
Reading II. Philippians 2: 6-11
Gospel. Luke 22: 14-23:56 (Passion)
Gospel at the Procession. Luke 19: 28-40.

At the blessing of the palm branches before Mass began today we heard the famous account of the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. Luke uses words similar to those which he had used to announce the birth of Jesus. The crowd proclaims:

Blessed is the king who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest.

It's hard not to wish that the story had ended here. The hero rides into town after preaching his wonderful message, healing the sick, and even raising his friend, Lazarus, from the dead, and then receives a hero's welcome. We can all live happily ever after. Why does He have to go though with the Passion? Why does there have to be a "Passion of the Christ?"

In our society today we spend billions of dollars every year trying to make our lives free of pain and suffering. Our drugstore aisles are full of painkillers; we go to Florida in the winter to avoid the cold; we would not think of buying a house or car without all the latest labor saving devices. We try to dull our psychological pain with drugs, both legal and illegal. We also shrink from spiritual pain.

For example, many regard Jesus primarily as a teacher, a good man whose words provide valuable advice for all whether religious or otherwise. Others see him as a kind of social worker who as St. Peter said, "went around doing good works." They see Him as providing an example for all in His care for the poor and the downtrodden. However, we can not regard Jesus as a loving teacher and caring brother and then shrink from the Jesus that is presented to us in today's readings.

As we enter into Passion week we will have to face the "suffering servant" presented to us in today's first reading from Isaiah:

I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

We heard in the reading of the Passion that Jesus found it necessary to take up his Cross. He had warned us of this a few weeks ago at the Transfiguration, and told us that we would also have to take up our own crosses. Today's reading starts with the account of the Last Supper. He took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the Apostles, and said,

This is my body, which will be given for you;
do this in memory of me."

Then he took the cup and said:

This cup is the new covenant in my blood'
which will be shed for you."

His Body and Blood will be shed for us. From day one Christians believed that this sacrifice was the central part of their faith. Almost immediately after His death and resurrection they began to come together to bless the Bread and Wine and remember him. They believed as we still do today that the same sacrifice He offered on Calvary is still offered in every Mass. Of course, we don't believe that our Lord suffers over and over again. We believe that the Mass that we offer today is one and the same with the sacrifice He offered on Calvary. This is why we fill our churches with reminders of His Passion. Look at the Stations, the Windows and see the symbols of his journey to Calvary.

St. Paul always said that he preached "Christ crucified." In today's second reading he says that our Lord "humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." The teaching of our Lord and the example He set is this--without suffering, there is no resurrection.

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