Reflection for April 16, 2000: Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.

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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
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There are two separate, but contingent spirits in today's liturgy. We celebrate Jesus' riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, to shouts of "Hosanna to the Son of David, the king of Israel." Then we hear the readings of the Eucharistic liturgy where Jesus is dragged back out of Jerusalem to shouts of "Crucify Him, crucify Him." The words of the first reading for the Eucharistic liturgy, taken from Isaiah, are applied to the Messiah. He will be spit upon, mocked, but "I will not be put to shame."|The Second Reading is an ancient hymn inserted into Paul's letter to the Philippians. We hear that Jesus did not consider being equal with God, something to be clung to, but He emptied Himself, "becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."|We hear then the old-and-ever-new story of how Jesus celebrated his last Good Friday.|In listening to these readings, we might find ourselves saying and praying, "Couldn't this have been done in a more appropriate manner?" This obedience of Jesus got Him in so much trouble; maybe he could have been a little less stubborn or determined. His birth was such a nice story and we could listen to music about it for a long time. We enjoy little stories about Littlest Angels and the like and are warmed by the love of a mother for her newborn child and the fidelity of her hidden husband.|Today and through the next five days, we ourselves are dragged through His torments, betrayals and sufferings and we find it all hard to pray with. Should we feel guilty as we hear the words of the song, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" Should we feel shame as our fellow human beings murdered the Son of God? Should we feel anger at the Jews for rejecting Jesus as the new and ever-lasting Covenant? Should we feel disappointed in the apostles who abandoned Jesus at the end? All these feelings and thoughts can go through our minds and hearts these days of Holy Week. What is our prayer with these thoughts and feelings?|From being a baby in a manger to a stranger on the cross, every time we see Jesus, we are invited to be nothing more than grateful. Where is the comfort? Where is the meaning of all this? Each of us must find our place from which to get a better view of this spectacle. In seeing His receiving the cross, the blows, the spittle, the mockery, the sip of wine, the crown of thorns and His death, how are we to be thankful?|Jesus, hanging on the cross, takes His life in its totality and consummates a life of gratitude to His Father and then offers it back in a "Thanksgiving sacrifice." One can not give up what one does not possess. Jesus lived a thanksgiving-life and died in that same spirit. Our gratitude is that He was saying something about us, which is so easy to interpret as a condemnation or disappointing judgment.|The best vantage point today is at the foot of the cross and while looking into His face, look at our own hearts and see if we believe what He is saying. This is a very safe place, because there is nothing judgmental or negative about this world, while standing in the shadow of the cross or ourselves. As we drift away from the cross, we can begin again, the cruelty and cancerous viewing of ourselves and all creation. WE are grateful for not being left to ourselves with our harshness about ourselves, but we have a Savior to whom we both raise our palms of praise this day and our hearts each day to be comforted.|The readings of today move so easily to the Thanksgiving Sacrifice of the Mass in which He says it all again. What we have heard we have celebrated in faith and fact. We move back out into our lives having remembered what He has done and said; remembering this world for which He lived obediently even to his death. His death is in vain in our lives, if we distance ourselves from the shadow of the cross and live only in the shadow of our unredeemed judgments.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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