|by Angela Lambert|
Blessed be the LORD, Who has shown me the wonders of His love.” Psalm 31:22
March 20th, 2016; Palm Sunday
Gospel of Luke 22:14-23:56
Since the reading is so lengthy, click this link to the passage: Gospel of Luke 22:14-23:56
Today marks the beginning of Holy Week. I will write another post about the significance of this week’s liturgies, especially the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil). For now however I want to focus on today – Palm Sunday. The Gospel follows Christ through the events of His Paschal Mystery beginning with His final entrance into Jerusalem and culminating in His death.
Three weeks ago I referenced the Pope’s theology of sin (“Living in Denial” 2/28/16). He teaches that the process of conversion begins with acknowledging our sin, confessing it with contrition to the Lord, then trusting in Christ’s mercy to forgive and heal us. As we unite ourselves to Christ this week, remembering the events of His suffering let us contemplate the third aspect of conversion – trusting gratitude for Christ’s mercy.
In the Office of Readings for today, a sermon by St. Andrew of Crete (d. 740), a bishop, offers a beautiful idea for how to honor Christ today…
|So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel. http://divineoffice.org/lent-hw-sun-or/?date=20160320|
This response inspires us to approach holy week with an attitude of deep appreciation; to follow the footsteps of the suffering Christ and feel the grace of His mercy accomplished through His sacrificial love. Numerous Gospel accounts tell of Pharisees or Sadducees wanting to kill Jesus but being unable. Christ could have escaped the Cross, it was within His power. He chose to surrender Himself which was the only reason they could apprehend Him. He chose to suffer as the sacrifice for our sins for the sole purpose of our redemption – to be freed from slavery to sin and death, to experience healing and supernatural strength, to experience union with God as His beloved children, and that our “joy may be full” (Jn 15:11).
Reflecting on Christ’s suffering however, especially if we have the courage to connect it to our own weakness and personal sins, requires more than a small amount of humility. It means we realize our dependence (something we hate in our culture) and our unworthiness. Christ endured things we could not and when asked to offer back something trivial in return we often fail. How many of us sigh at the length of the reading on Palm Sunday, and yet how much easier to read it than to live it! How much longer it was for Christ to actually endure the events we recall.
Distracted thoughts and limited attention spans will always burden due to our weakened nature from original sin. We can work to minimize our distractions however and lengthen our attention by replacing our thoughts about everyday matters with thoughts of God through regular spiritual reading or listening to Catholic talk radio. We can replace worldly images in our imagination with images of Christ through praying the psalms and listening to Christian music. Rather than secular songs interrupting our prayer, over time Christian songs may interrupt our mundane tasks.
This Holy Week, let’s do our best to, as St. Andrew suggested, lay our transformed selves before Christ. Let us ease His suffering with songs of praise and thanksgiving. Let us offer Him hope on the Cross by demonstrating that His sacrifice would bear much fruit in our lives. Be a gracious receiver by using the gift Christ gave you to live a holy and joyful life.
- Take time to reflect on those things Christ has conquered in your life – sin, addiction, lies you had believed, fears, pride, loneliness, despair…
- Examine areas of your life in need of Christ. Imagine His blood washing over them and healing them. Invite Him to free you in that area as a grace of this Holy Week. Resolve to cooperate with Him in this effort.
- Sacrifice is the proof of love. Christ would have suffered every pain for you alone.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Pray the Stations of the Cross.
- Pray a psalm of thanksgiving each day for God’s help.
- Pray psalm 21, the psalm Jesus quoted from the Cross when He said, “My God My God, why have you abandoned Me.”
- Listen to Christian radio on your drive or as you get ready in the morning.
- Ideas: local Christian music stations; download the Relevant Radio app and listen to Catholic programming.
- Offer encouragement to someone who is suffering.
- Offer mercy to someone in thanksgiving for Christ’s mercy to you.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016
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