Part One – Palm Sunday Vigil Mass
Holy Week and The Paschal Mysteries: The Passion and Death of Christ
After these past five weeks of preparation, we are now entering the climax of the Lenten season, Holy Week. The richness of these readings includes numerous phrases and expressions that have become part of the Sunday liturgy and other devotions. But, most of all, they reveal how each event of the Passion of Christ had been announced by the prophets in the Scriptures and by Christ himself, thus confirming that he was the One “who was to come.”
In a way, the whole week from today until Easter Sunday should be seen as one spiritual movement within the Paschal Mystery and then the 50 days of Easter Celebration as a new opportunity for another spiritual movement of freedom and a fuller life in the Spirit, since that Paschal Mystery includes the sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus into glory and the sending of the Spirit on the disciples of Jesus to continue the work he began. This week is the earthly climax of the mission of Jesus Christ and the renewal of ours.
With that in mind, let’s begin this week’s reflections with a question, the answer to which will hopefully lead our hearts into deeper contemplation of our salvation. Many wonder why, on Palm Sunday, we only spend a little bit of time hearing about the theme of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and instead focus on his passion and death when we have the rest of Holy Week for that. The answer to the question might be related to our lives. You know how lots of good things that happen, like God's grace being poured out, the blessings we received, the good that's been done in the world. We focus on that for about 5 minutes, but we focus most of our time thinking about all the stuff that's goes wrong.
Now, I want you to think about that as related to the themes of the cult of personality and cancel culture of our own time. As Jesus arrives at Jerusalem the crowds are excited, and everybody is crying out about how awesome Jesus is because of what they think are some really cool tricks. Jesus, you're awesome. You healed my child. Jesus, you're awesome. You raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus, you're awesome. I don't know why, but everybody else is really excited so I am too. It’s a big party, the King of the Jews has arrived! Yet, how quickly does that fanfare dissipate? You know, if the excitement was authentic, if those folks really were believers, followers, disciples, and not just caught up in the cult of personality; they wouldn't have been so quick to turn on him, in a matter of days. Jesus Christ, we love you and, in the next minute… we don't like you anymore. And two days later they’re screaming for his crucifixion.
Good and not so good people have fickle hearts. Isn't that kind of the way we live our faith? With fickle hearts. We're all about Jesus one minute. Praising the Lord, King of my life, I had a great retreat. This is awesome. But two months later, your wife is asking what happened to that guy who came home from retreat so fired up about Jesus? Or your kid comes back from Steubenville or some other great conference and they're so excited about Jesus, full of joy, so helpful, loving, and grateful. Two weeks later you’re wondering where that kid went.
God might say the same thing to us. Two months ago, you were in confession saying, God forgive me. I'm so sorry. I want you to be the Lord of my life. I really love you. Forgive me, I have sinned. God forgives and you’re determined to go and sin no more. Yet, maybe even before the end of that day God is wondering what happened to your gratitude, joy, and resolve.
It's our brokenness, right? It's our inclination to sin. That’s our struggle. And that's why, God who so loved us, sent his only Son to be one among us and like us in all things but sin. He came to pay the price of our sin and paves the way for us to always be able to come back to God.
That's why we focus on his passion and death on Palm Sunday. Because the reality is we too easily forget the cost of our salvation, his suffering on the cross. We too easily forget who to thank for those blessings. We too easily forget to teach our families our children all the amazing ways that God has blessed us and poured out grace upon our families. The times God has gotten us through tough days and nights. We forget to easily the prayers that God has answered. We too easily forget the details of the story of God's great, passionate love for his creation. Way too easily passover the Father, passover Christ, passover the Holy Spirit, the Angels, and the Saints. When that happens, we see ourselves as the star of the story. We believe the lie that we are self-made. We are reminded today that we're not self-made. Neither did we create ourselves, nor did we get to wherever we are without God's help. And so, solemnly today we're reminded of our fickleness so that we can take what God has given us through this lent, no matter how faithful we've been during this Lenten journey, that God can take that today and open our hearts and minds during this most Holy of Weeks. And coming to Easter Sunday of his Resurrection in greater fullness of love for God and understanding of our salvation in him.
God so loved me; he sent his only son that I might live. That I might be free from sin. That I might glorify God with my life, my words. That I would be an eager builder of the Kingdom, fisher of men and women. A disciple who desires to actively bring others closer to the heart of Christ and the joy of salvation. That's what we celebrate next Sunday. This Sunday, we are reminded of how it is we get to next Sunday. And that, my friends. Is why we focus a little part of today's readings on that moment of triumphal entry and the rest of the time soberly reflect on who we are and how much we need God.
Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.