Palm Sunday: Fresco in an Austrian parish Church
One of the things I enjoy doing is either seeing a good movie or a live stage production. While the two have their unique value of entertainment, what they have in common is the genius of a good story. Comedy, tragedy, or a good human interest story can touch us deeply as the parables do of Jesus. He was certainly the consummate teacher and story teller. There is little doubt that the stories told in the parables have clearly stood the test of time and they remain among us as they have for countless generations of earlier Christian people. Each parable story also had a deeper lesson of forgiveness, mercy, universal love and other similar themes that touch us deep within.
This week we are about to begin another story which will unfold with great liturgical drama. The liturgies of Holy Week beginning this Sunday with Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday. All of these liturgical celebrations speak for themselves in sign and symbol. All this culminates in the glory of the Lord’s Resurrection and new birth for the Church in its new members through the waters of Baptism, anointing with the Holy Spirit in Confirmation and the food of the Eucharist, Christ himself, during the powerful Easter Vigil. Then the “party” begins for the next 50 days in the Easter season. Unlike the parables, however, or the fantasy of a movie or stage play, the drama of this week is rooted in true historical events that forever changed the world.
This week the Church really puts on a marvelous show not to entertain us but to move us to raise our hearts and minds in eternal gratitude for what God has done for us in and through the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ: the Paschal mystery as you will hear more than once during the season.
Whatever success or perceived failure you feel you may have had during the season of Lent in regards to what you decided to do on Ash Wednesday, now is the time to bring all that to the Cross of Christ this week. While the liturgies, if done well, will certainly have an effect on us, let’s pray that however they move us it will be the beginning of something new. A celebration of the mercy of God who loves us beyond what we understand fully. But a call to personal responsibility for our lives as well.
Holy Thursday contains the great mandatum to wash the feet of one another as Christ washed the feet of his Apostles before giving them the Eucharist, his very life for their lives. The Eucharist implies a response and the response is not a private devotion but a public call to service and humility after the example of Christ himself.
Much to ponder this week as we go about our very busy lives. Below is the second reading from Philippians offered for this Palm Sunday. It gives us the words of an ancient Christian hymn but I think a most beautiful reflection on who and what this week is all about – who and what our lives are all about. The reading of the Lord’s Passion this year is taken from the Gospel of Mark 14. It may be a good practice before attending Mass this weekend, to take some time and read that through.
Phil 2: 6-11
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
More to come . . .