Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Passion Sunday

Palm Sunday
April 13, 2014
Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66

Changed expectations. We like change to be gradually introduced into our world so we can get our head and heart around the new reality. Sudden change produces trauma. It is difficult to fathom what the disciples of Jesus went through upon his arrival into Jerusalem. They welcome him into the holy city amid great hopes as they wave olive branches and palm fronds before him and greet him as one would welcome home a victorious war hero. Their songs of Hosanna tell of their happiness that the real King of Israel is in their midst and in a matter of days, they have a dead man on their hands.   

The weeks prior to his arrival for the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that many Jews wanted to kill him and he stayed in the region beyond the Jordan River where he could find safety. He knew that when he set his face towards Jerusalem he would be handed over and lifted up. I wonder what must have been going through his mind when he was so well received by thousands of believers who proclaimed him King. He must have smiled at their warm hospitality, but was his soul able to fully smile? Was his happiness mixed with dread? Surely, those who sought his life would find him out and hand him over to those who did not know him. 

The path of his emotions must have seen its ups and downs: warmth from being well received, gladness of meeting friends again, concern that he would be made a king in the eyes of others, caution from the crowds’ expectations, fear that he would be arrested, hurt by the ranging feelings of everyone because of the swirling events around him, and anger that death was his fate.

What was the path of the people’s emotions? great anticipation, elation, great hopes for a victory, contentment that they found the right one to deliver them, wonder about this ordinary man who is to lead them, confusion, anger, betray, complete chaotic rejection. This is quite a host of emotions to hold within a few days’ time.

At least Jesus could escape the calm from the storm and find refuge in the company of his trusted friends. It must have given him comfort even though he knew he would be betrayed and denied. Even though we only read about Peter and Judas, everyone in that room was capable of doing the same thing as they ask, “Surely, it is not I?” We are in that room with Jesus and we ask the same question, “Not me too?” Yes, you. Yes, me. We participate in the solemn events that unfold before us this week. The Passion hits home personally and profoundly whether we open or close our hearts to the Spirit. We do not have control over it. All we can do is watch and pray, sometimes fall asleep, turn our eyes towards or away from Jesus, and let ourselves be moved by his trusting act of obedience. Stay with him this week as faithfully as you can. Forces beyond your imagining will lead you to the heart of the Lord.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

Monday of Holy Week: We hear from Isaiah 42 in the First Oracle of the Servant of the Lord in which God’s servant will suffer silently, but will bring justice to the world. In the Gospel, Lazarus’ sister, Mary, anoints Jesus’ feet with costly oil in preparation for his funeral.

Tuesday of Holy Week: In the Second Oracle of the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 49), he cries out that I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth. In deep hurt, distress and grief, Jesus tells his closest friends at supper that one of them will betray him and another will deny him three times before the cock crows.

(Spy) Wednesday of Holy Week: In the Third Oracle of the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 50), the suffering servant does not turn away from the ridicule and torture of his persecutors and tormentors. The time has come. 
Matthew’s account shows Judas eating during the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread with Jesus and their good friends after he had already arranged to hand him over to the chief priests for thirty pieces of silver. The Son of Man will be handed over by Judas, one of the Twelve, who sets the terms of Jesus’ arrest.


Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday: Only an evening Mass can be said today and we let our bells ring freely during the Gloria that has been absent all Lent. In Exodus, we hear the laws and customs about eating the Passover meal prior to God’s deliverance of the people through Moses from the Egyptians. Paul tells us of the custom by early Christians that as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. In John’s Gospel, Jesus loves us to the end giving us a mandate to wash one another’s feet.

Good Friday: No Mass is celebrated today though there may be a service of veneration of the cross and a Stations of the Cross service. In Isaiah, we hear the Fourth Oracle of the Servant of the Lord who was wounded for our sins. In Hebrews, we are told that Jesus learned obedience through his faith and thus became the source of salvation for all. The Passion of our Lord is proclaimed from John’s Gospel.

Holy Saturday and the Easter Vigil: No Mass, baptisms, or confirmations can be celebrated before the Vigil to honor the Lord who has been buried in the tomb. The Old Testament readings point to God’s vision of the world and the deliverance of the people from sin and death. All of Scripture points to the coming of the Righteous One who will bring about salvation for all. The Old Testament is relished during the Vigil of the Word as God’s story of salvation is told to us again. The New Testament epistle from Romans tells us that Christ, who was raised from the dead, dies no more. Matthew's Gospel finds Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at dawn arriving at the tomb only to find it empty. After a great earthquake that made the guards tremble, and angel appears telling the women, "Do not be afraid." The angel instructs them to go to the Twelve to tell them, "Jesus has been raised from the dead, and is going before you to Galilee."

Saints of the Week

April 11: Stanislaus, bishop and martyr (1030-1079), was born near Krakow, Poland and studied canon law and theology before he renounced his family fortunes and became a priest. Elected bishop, he oppose the bellicose and immoral King Boleslaus II who often oppressed the peasantry. He excommunicated the king who ordered his murder but the soldiers refused to carry it out. The king murdered him by his own hands, but then had to flee into exile.

April 13: Martin I, pope, (6th century – 655), an Umbrian was elected pope during the Byzantine papacy. One of his earliest acts was to convene the Lateran Council that dealt with the heretical Monothelitism.  Martin was abducted by Emperor Constans II and died in the Crimean peninsula.
This Week in Jesuit History

·      Apr 13, 1541. Ignatius was elected general in a second election, after having declined the results of the first election several days earlier.
·      Apr 14, 1618. The father of John Berchmans is ordained a priest. John himself was still a Novice.
·      Apr 15, 1610. The death of Fr. Robert Parsons, the most active and indefatigable of all the leaders of the English Catholics during the reign of Elizabeth I.
·      Apr 16, 1767. Pope Clement XIII wrote to Charles III of Spain imploring him to cancel the decree of expulsion of the Society from Spain, issued on April 2nd. The Pope's letter nobly defends the innocence of the Society.
·      Apr 17, 1540. The arrival in Lisbon of St Francis Xavier and Fr. Simon Rodriguez. Both were destined for India, but the latter was retained in Portugal by the King.
·      Apr 18, 1906. At Rome, the death of Rev Fr. Luis Martin, twenty-fourth General of the Society. Pope Pius X spoke of him as a saint, a martyr, a man of extraordinary ability and prudence.
·      Apr 19, 1602. At Tyburn, Ven. James Ducket, a layman, suffered death for publishing a work written by Robert Southwell.