for Palm Sunday - Cycle C
April 1, 2007
Many years ago, in a book by an Irish spiritual writer named Edward Leen, a book entitled: In The Likeness of Christ, I came across a single sentence which has continued to challenge me, both personally and pastorally. Father Leen wrote: "The great task of the Christian is to achieve a vital connectedness between the two life-experiences - the life experience of Jesus as we come to know Him in the gospel brought to life in prayer - and our own life experience... a kind of interpenetration by which the life of Our Lord molds and forms our own according to His Spirit."
"A vital connectedness" - "An interpenetration" by which you and I allow Our Lord to enter profoundly into our lives and to enliven and transform us into His likeness. If it is to this that we, all of us, are called as Christians, it follows that the great task of the Church, its very reason for being, is to be found right here - to fill our lives with Christ. Every liturgy, every sacrament, every sermon ought to have as its ultimate purpose to make Our Lord more and more the center of our lives and to deepen our response to His transforming presence. This is the purpose of all the feast and seasons of the Churchís liturgical year. But it is especially true of this time on which we are entering today. We call it "Holy Week" and we do so, not only because of the memories of Jesus into which we are caught up but also because of the special treasures of grace they hold out to us as we meet Our Lord in a most intimate way and are called to a closer walk with Him.
We believe that the events which took place in Jerusalem during these holiest of days are much more for us than a pious page out of ancient history. In a very real sense, the Passion of Jesus is always a contemporary mystery. His story impacts our story. We meet Our Lord on the common ground of Calvary - in the shared experience of loneliness and failure and fear - even in the ultimate darkness of dying. All these are part of our personal pain as they are part of His. St. Paul speaks of "the fellowship of His sufferings" and he sums up for us the personal meaning of Good Friday and Easter Sunday: "If we suffer with Him, we shall share His glory." The promise is conditional and, for all of us, the condition is the cross. Did not Our Blessed Lord tell us: "If anyone would be my disciples, he must take up his cross day after day, and follow me."
Our reading of St. Lukeís account of the Passion and Death of Jesus is like the overture to the great drama of our redemption. It sets the tone for this week of remembering. In the ceremony of the blessing of the palms, we remembered all that happened on that first Palm Sunday. We listened again to the acclaim of the crowd as Jesus entered into the Holy City. And in the midst of that noisy demonstration, if we looked closely into the face of Jesus, we caught something of the pensive sorrow which filled His heart. He knew well how shallow was their faith and how quickly those cries of acclaim would change to shouts of rejection and demands for His blood.
On Holy Thursday night, the door to the Upper Room will be opened wide, not just for the apostles but also for us as we gather in this eucharistic place to remember, with St. John, all that Jesus said that night before He died for us... And remember, too, the wonderful way He found to make good His promise to be with us always: "This is My Body, given for you." "This is the Cup of My Blood, shed for you." "Do this in memory of Me."
On Good Friday, we will follow the blood-stained foot prints of Jesus along the way of the cross; we will find our place on Calvary, to keep our death-watch there beside Mary, His Mother. We will listen again to His words from the cross and remember the moment when the thorn-crowned head fell forward and He died for us and for our salvation.
And in this darkened church, on Holy Saturday night, we will celebrate Our Lordís victory over death as we touch our candles to the new fire of the Christ-Candle and the Light of the Risen Christ dispels for us even the darkness of death. On Easter Sunday morning, with Christians the world over, we will stand in spirit beside the Empty Tomb and celebrate our joyful faith that Jesus Lives.
We call it Holy Week - Holy in the memories it brings to life - holy in the graces it holds out to each one of us. But whether it will be truly a "holy week" for you or me - that depends on us.
Will we be part of the remembering? Will we claim for ourselves the graces that these days hold for us?