Receiving Christ’s Gift Graciously

Palm Sunday

excerpt from Lenten Journey: Through the Desert to the Eternal Spring by Angela Jendro

Gospel of Luke 22:14-23:56 NAB full version. Luke 23:1-49 NAB shortened version and reprinted here below.

The elders of the people, chief priests and scribes, arose and brought Jesus before Pilate. They brought charges against him, saying, “We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Christ, a king.” Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, “I find this man not guilty.” But they were adamant and said, “He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea,
from Galilee where he began even to here.”

On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; and upon learning that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at length, but he gave him no answer. The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing him harshly. Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly. Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”

But all together they shouted out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.” — Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder. — Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!” Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed. The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.

As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” Now two others, both criminals, were led away with him to be executed.

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal. “Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last.

The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events.

Meditation Reflection:

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week with 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.

Recall the Pope’s theology of sin. 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.”

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” (John 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 something back in return, even trivial things, 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 us due to our weakened nature from original sin. We can work to minimize our distractions however and lengthen our attention by changing our habits. For instance, we can replace some of our thoughts about worldly matters with thoughts of spiritual matters through regular Scripture reading, good Christian books and conversation, or listening to Christian 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 we might find Christian songs interrupting our mundane tasks instead.

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 will bear much fruit.

 Consider:

  • 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 Jendro © 2019

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Pushing the Limits

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 

March 25th, 2018 Palm Sunday

Gospel of Mark 14-15 NAB

The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were to take place in two days’ time. So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to arrest him by treachery and put him to death. They said, “Not during the festival, for fear that there may be a riot among the people.”

When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. There were some who were indignant. “Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages and the money given to the poor.” They were infuriated with her. Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me. She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial. Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.
When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money. Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘ Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.” The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

When it was evening, he came with the Twelve. And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one, “Surely it is not I?” He said to them, “One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish. For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”  While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed. But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him,
“Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.” Then Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.”
But he vehemently replied, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all spoke similarly. Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.” He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” When he returned he found them asleep.
He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing. Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him. He returned a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

Then, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely.” He came and immediately went over to him and said, “Rabbi.” And he kissed him. At this they laid hands on him and arrested him. One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to seize me? Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me; but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled. Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.

They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. Peter followed him at a distance into the high priest’s courtyard and was seated with the guards, warming himself at the fire. The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none. Many gave false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. Some took the stand and testified falsely against him, alleging, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands.'”  Even so their testimony did not agree. The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus, saying, “Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?” But he was silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him and said to him, “Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?” Then Jesus answered, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.'” At that the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further need have we of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as deserving to die. Some began to spit on him.
They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards greeted him with blows.

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s maids came along. Seeing Peter warming himself, she looked intently at him and said, “You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”
But he denied it saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” So he went out into the outer court. Then the cock crowed. The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” Once again he denied it. A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more, “Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean.” He began to curse and to swear, “I do not know this man about whom you are talking.” And immediately a cock crowed a second time. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.” He broke down and wept.

As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” The chief priests accused him of many things. Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of.” Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested. A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion. The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed. Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what do you want me to do with the man you call the king of the Jews?” They shouted again, “Crucify him. “Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort. They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him. They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him. They knelt before him in homage. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him. They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. They brought him to the place of Golgotha — which is translated Place of the Skull — They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.
Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” With him they crucified two revolutionaries,
one on his right and one on his left. Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel,
come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.

At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “Look, he is calling Elijah.” One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink saying, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.” Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome. These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem. When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was amazed that he was already dead. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died. And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth,
and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid.

Meditation Reflection:

Palm Sunday we recall the Passion of Christ.  We remember His entry into Jerusalem received by adoring crowds which quickly turned to Crucifixion and mocking crowds.  In this account we see ourselves and the fickleness of our own faith.  Peter’s exchange with Jesus at the Last Supper depicts the Christian struggle well:

Peter said to him, “Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.”

But he vehemently replied, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.”

And they all spoke similarly.

When has Peter’s attitude been our own?  Complete confidence in our loyalty to Christ – our faith in Who He is, our Hope in Him alone, our perception of undivided Love.  Yet, Christ knows the truth in our hearts.  He knows the real limit of our faith, the weakness of our hope, and the dissipation of our love when confronted with suffering and disappointment.  As long as God’s plan corresponds with our plan, we feel ready to follow Him with magnanimous discipleship.  Yet, when His will deviates from ours, especially if it’s inexplicable to our natural understanding, we often falter.

The Passion of Christ’s love reveals our own tepidity.  (Just consider how we complain at reading or standing at Mass for the length of this Gospel passage.  Yet, how much longer it was for Christ to actually endure!)  However, He also redeems it by taking on our weak human failings Himself, and through the power of His victory, bestowing that grace on our souls so that we may have in truth the magnanimous friendship with Christ we desire in intention.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in his reflections for the third station on the Way of the Cross, reflected:

Three times Our Savior was tempted on the mountain, and three times He fell on the way to Mount Calvary.  Thus did He atone for our three falls – to the temptation of the flesh, the world, and the devil.”   (The Way of the Cross, originally written 1932; currently published by Society of St. Paul 2006)

“He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.””

How we have all prayed the first part of this prayer!  Begging our Heavenly Father, “all things are possible to You, take this cup away from me”.  The agony of the deepest human suffering pleads in these very words.  The proverbial question “if You are all Good and all Powerful God, why am I suffering?”

The mystery is revealed in Jesus Christ alone.  “But not what I will but what You will.”  God wills our eternal salvation.  He wills it in conformity with respect for human free will.  Human choices cause suffering, but God’s will directs all things, even the events of His Son’s suffering and death, to the triumph of love.  Most of the time we won’t know the particulars of how everything will play out, but we do know the final ending.  Christ conquers – sin, human weakness, even death.  Those who exalt themselves in sin will be humbled, and those who persevere in humility will be exalted.  In Him we find healing, wholeness, strength, and eternal joy.  St. Paul promises that God works all things for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), not just some things.   Christ promises the Cross to His followers, but He also promises Resurrection. And the two are inseparable.

Fallen human nature resists faith in the power of the Cross.  Instead it often mocks it like the passersby at Jesus’ crucifixion.

In the account of Jesus’ Passion, individuals respond to His impending Cross in ways that we may relate.  Progress in our spiritual journey corresponds to how far we are willing to follow Christ.  Hopefully each year, we walk a step closer to the Cross and abide with Him a little longer.  Many things can trip us up however as we see in today’s Gospel.

I’ll follow until:

  • Jesus isn’t Who I want Him to be.  He won’t make me materially rich:  Judas
  • I’m tired or bored: Apostles asleep during Jesus’ Agony in the Garden
  • I’m threatened: disciples fleeing the crowd with swords; Peter recognized by the maid
  • I’m caught: young man in linen cloth
  • I’ll cause a rift or make waves: Pilate
  • Even still, Jesus invites His betrayers into His mercy.
“But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

This Holy Week, let us remain with Him.  Let us stay close to Him in prayer without falling asleep or rushing off to distractions.  Let us enter into the mystery of His suffering, death, and resurrection by accepting the griefs within our own situations and dying to what we cannot change, so that we may rise with Him who can redeem every sin and every situation.

Consider:

  • First and foremost, consider Christ’s love for you.  Reflect on how He has shared in your suffering.  Have you ever felt alone, betrayed, anxious, mocked, lied about, physically hurting, or exhausted?  Remember that Christ walks with you through the pain to resurrection in Him.
  • How can your love for Christ be strengthened?
    • Jesus observes in us that “The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Consider times when you have experienced this.  (Sleeping when you should be praying, resting instead of the effort to show up for someone hurting…)
    • Have you ever sold out Christ for a worldly gain? Consider when you have prioritized money, status, or worldly acknowledgement over doing God’s will for you.
    • Pilate’s betrayal sprang from “wishing to satisfy the crowd.” Sometimes we deny Christ by failing to speak up out of fear of being persecuted on His account. When asked “Are you a Christian?” or “Are you Catholic?”, how do you respond?  Do you hesitate or qualify it?  Or do you respond confidently, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope as St. Peter tells us (I Peter 3:15).
    • What fears can the devil use to tempt you away from following the Lord? How does he stir up your anxiety, and worry you into hiding, away from the Cross, like the other apostles?

 Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray the Stations of the Cross or the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary this week.
  • Reflect on one section of this Gospel passage a day this week.

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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He Shared In Our Suffering, And Carries Our Cross…Gospel Meditation for Palm Sunday

by Angela Lambert

April 9th, 2017; Palm Sunday

(For the longer version of today’s Gospel, click this link: Matthew 26:14-27:66)

Gospel of Matthew 27:11-54

Jesus stood before the governor, Pontius Pilate, who questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?” But he did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Which one do you want me to release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over. While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him.” The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus. The governor said to them in reply, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They answered, “Barabbas!”

Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!” When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.” And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.

And when they came to a place called Golgotha — which means Place of the Skull —, they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall. But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink. After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews. Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left. Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the cross!” Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way.

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, ‘Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.” But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

Meditation Reflection:

Sin has a price.  During Holy Week, we contemplate Christ’s sacrifice for our salvation; the reason He became man and dwelt among us.  Jesus’ journey to the Cross began with His Incarnation in Mary’s womb.  Certainly, He ranks as the greatest Teacher in history, but He is much much more than that.  Divine Truth could not save us, without the gift of grace to transform us.  As St. Paul taught, the Mosaic Law condemns us.  Since we know the truth, we are all the guiltier when we transgress it.  The Mosaic Law provided the gift of wisdom, but it could not fortify a soul to follow it.  The thousands upon thousands of sacrificial lambs began the process of atonement for sin, but only the Lamb of God could justify us before the Lord.

Jesus knew every detail of His Passion before it occurred.  His human nature agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Eve of His crucifixion, even begging God that if it be His will, “to let this cup pass.”  Jesus willingly accepted His suffering and allowed Himself to be taken into custody, beaten, scourged, mocked, and crucified.  The Jews had tried to arrest Him several times before or stone Him for blasphemy, but to no avail.  They had no power of Jesus, only love and the cost for our redemption compelled Him forward.

Christ, though sinless Himself, entered into the messiness of our sinful human experience.  In doing so, He accomplished two things – first He redeemed us from our sins, and secondly, He drew near to comfort us in our struggles.  No one can say to the Lord, “you don’t understand, your God.”  Jesus experienced every humiliation that you and I suffer.  He grew up in poverty, His family had to flee persecution and live in exile for a period of time, the cultural elite looked down on Him and discounted His wisdom, He was often misunderstood – even by His closest companions, during His public ministry He had no home, some towns welcomed Him but others drove Him out of the city, on the hardest day of His life His friends fled and two betrayed Him, and at the end of His life it appeared that everything He had built was falling apart.  He experienced the fickle nature of human honors – being hailed as king as He entered Jerusalem with people waving palms shouting, “hosanna in the highest”, then the next day hearing the same crowd demand His execution shouting “crucify Him.”

When we cry out to God in our pain, weeping and begging as we ask “do you not see my suffering? Do you even care?”, we can be assured that He does, more than anyone else on this earth.  He became man so He could share in our suffering, carry our cross with us, and paying the price of our sins so we could live in the freedom of grace.  It may seem at times that God is silent, and we may struggle at His inaction.  Jesus experienced this too.  He asked in the Garden if there was another way.  On the Cross, He cried out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.”  Yet, He maintained complete confidence in God’s love and mercy.  He surrendered to God’s will at each step.  Even His final cry was one of hope.  He was quoting Psalm 22 which begins in anguish but ends in confidence that God will save. Jesus knew that His death would bring resurrection, for all men.  In the same way, we can be confident that we are never alone in our suffering, and with any death we experience, God will bring from it resurrection to new life.

Consider:

  • Consider each of Jesus’ sufferings.
    • His agony in the Garden – taking upon Himself the weight of our sins, fighting the human impulse to flee pain, the apostles asleep in His hour of need, the betrayal by Judas
    • His condemnation by the Sadducees and then by Pilate.  Standing silent without retort.
    • Hearing the crowd reject Him, even though He had done nothing but show them love.  Hearing them demand His crucifixion.  The vicious envy of the Jewish leaders and the shallowness of the people in the crowd who were so easily influenced.
    • The bloody scourging, which bruised and tore His flesh and resulted in losing a great deal of blood.
    • The mocking of the guards and the crown of thorns.  Choosing to endure rather than to argue back or overpower them.
    • Carrying the heavy cross, after a sleepless night and so much blood loss.  Fighting the weakness of His body with each step, and the shock of pain with each fall under its weight.  The chaos of the crowds pressing in on Him.
    • The humiliation of being stripped of His clothes.
    • The brutal crucifixion.
  • Consider the cost of your sins.  In what ways do others pay a price for your sin?  Are there persons particularly affected by your impatience, envy, pride, competitiveness, desire for attention, gossip, or other shortcomings?
  • In what ways do you pay a price for the sins of others?  How can imitating Christ’s example of forgiveness lift someone up with whom you struggle?
  • Consider your darkest moments and your deepest pain.  Reflect on how Christ has shared that same experience and suffered the same emotions – anxiety, humiliation, rejection, loss.
  • Consider the immense, unconditional love that Christ has for you.  Consider the lengths to which He willingly went, to protect and save you – to give you life and joy to the fullest.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, ask Christ to show you someone who is suffering.  Comfort that person in some way, so as to offer comfort to Christ in His sufferings.

Related Posts:

The Easter Triduum…Entering the Mystery

Receiving Christ’s Gift Graciously…Gospel Meditation for Palm Sunday (2016)

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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Receiving Christ’s Gift Graciously…Gospel Meditation for Palm Sunday

by Angela Lambert

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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

Meditation Reflection:

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.

Consider:

  • 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

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address.