Saturday, April 04, 2009

Obedient to Death

April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. Isaiah 50:7

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 death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8

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?" Mark 15:33-34


The Prayer in the Garden

Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.


I have always called it Palm Sunday because the cheering for Christ was more upbeat than the suffering with Christ that was up coming. Cheering for the passion of Christ takes a great deal of mystic grace. The glory of the cross is not obvious to those who do not appreciate the love of God the Father that the sending of the Son is such an emphatic statement of. It is one thing to realize that the glory of Christ is from his passion and another to rejoice in the sufferings of Christ that are for me. Palm Sunday is the beginning of the process to appreciate the tree of glory that flowers in the Resurrection of Christ.

It is possible to look at a stranger dying and not feel anything. The death of a good friend or a sibling is another story. The depth of the involvement of our lives with another is a measure of how much we would grieve their death. Love makes the other’s life part of our life. The death of a loved one is always hard to bear. Connections are built up by all the intimacies of life. When one we love is gone, that part of our lives is gone also. Too often we keep our distance from another’s suffering because we are afraid of the pain of separation. Love is the giving of one’s life for the sake of another. Christ died for each of us. I can depersonalize the suffering of Christ by seeing it for everyone, not just myself.

Waving the palms on Palm Sunday is a symbolic statement of how important Christ is for us. When I come to some sort of a realization of who it is that is dying and appreciate that he is and would have died just for me, a personalizing of the suffering and death takes place in my heart. Seeing that he is suffering for me, I want to stop him. Making Christ suffer for what I did wrong makes me into a very selfish person unless I can find a way to make it up to him. Respect for life would always keep me from watching the death of another. When a loved one is dying, it is different for me. I want to be there for the person. After all these years of Palm Sundays I find myself looking at Christ with my heart and belonging to him because he is my new life. I invite everyone to celebrate this Holy Week with a personal stake in the dying of Christ. Thus, Easter Sunday may take on an entirely different meaning. Christ had to die unknowing of what it would mean to us so that we could die knowing what his death means to us. Let us cheer the Christ whose death brings us his life. Let us enter into Palm Sunday with all our minds and hearts united to the suffering of Christ in all the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, prisoners and hurting people of the world in our hearts.


Holy Week allows us the chance to ask the three questions of St. Ignatius. What was I doing for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What will I do for Christ? Holy Week gives us the chance to participate in the sweep of Salvation History. Going with Christ through the triduum of Holy Thursday, Friday and Saturday allows us the chance to open our hearts to salvation as the new dawn of Salvation touches our prayer in our Participation in the Resurrection. Palm Sunday can be for us the opening salvo of God’s love for us in the Passion of Christ. The more deeply we enter into the passion of Christ, the more the joy of the Resurrection will reveal itself as the taste of what a waits us in our faithfulness to Christ in his Mystical Body of the Church.

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