Palm Sunday

There is a beautiful tension and a sense of deep humility that surrounds our celebration of the Paschal Mystery of the Lord. Each of us must prepare our hearts to walk this journey to Calvary with Jesus, as we move into this holiest week of our Church year. The tension plays out with the triumphant procession of Jesus into Jerusalem, as the people lay down their cloaks and shout, “Hosanna!” As the faithful, we enter this same procession, waving our palm branches high above our heads and singing “All Glory, Laud, and Honor.”

The drama continues as Jesus shares his final meal with his beloved disciples and announces that one sitting with him will give him over to the angry crowd. He breaks the bread and shares the cup, as he gives the command to “do this in memory of me.” Jesus goes to Gethsemane to have his final conversation with the Father before he surrenders to those who would crucify him. Despite anguish that none could imagine, he pledges to do the Father’s will.

There is a sense of deep humility that stirs in my heart, as I listen to the story of Christ’s passion and death. I can identify with the disciples, who were well-meaning, but couldn’t quite rise to the challenge to “stay awake and pray.” There is the raw humanity of Judas Iscariot, who trades his discipleship for thirty pieces of silver; then in the horror of what he has done to his Savior, he runs away and hangs himself.

We see Peter fall to fear as he denies Christ three times.  We sense that fear in his heart, as he realizes that what Jesus foretold was now coming to pass. He fears for his own safety as the angry mob continues to press for Jesus’ crucifixion. We feel the depth of Peter’s sorrow as he realizes what he has done and weeps bitterly. And we find no trace of Peter at the cross, where John the beloved and the Blessed Mother look in horror at the crucified Christ.

The familiar story continues and culminates in the moment when Jesus gives up his spirit and the congregation kneels for a few moments of silence. In this moment I am transported to a scene from December 5, 2015, when I and my six brothers lay prostrate on the floor of the Cathedral, as we pledged to give our lives for Christ and His Church as deacons. It was a moment of surrender tinged with anxiety and uncertainty over what God had planned for me and my brothers.

This Lenten season has been a journey for each of us. For many, we likely fell short of what we thought we would do this Lent. I know I did. Like the disciples in the garden, some of us struggled to make the commitment to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Maybe we intended to give up ice cream, only to find ourselves being tempted to enjoy some despite our best intentions. Some of us aspired to heal broken relationships or to reach out to those in need, but found ourselves failing in our efforts. In truth, we likely succeeded in some aspects of our Lenten journey, but failed in others. Ah humanity!

Whatever this Lent has been for us, it is time to stand before the cross and look upon our dying Savior. It is time for us to surrender those things that have challenged us and lay them at the foot of the cross. It is time to remind ourselves once again that evil never has the last word. That despite the impending pandemic of COVID-19, God reigns supreme and will be with us in times of suffering. We need Lent.  We need to stand at the foot of the cross and evaluate our lives. We need to recognize that on our own we will fail, but with Christ we can do great things! We need Lent to temper our passions and turn our hearts toward the person next to us, behind us, or in front of us. We need the darkness of Good Friday, so that we can appreciate the joy of Easter Sunday. 

We are living in a time when fear encroaches on our peace, and sadness can mask the joy that we deeply want to experience. Whatever we are carrying in our hearts, let us lay it at the foot of the cross and allow Jesus to make something beautiful of it. In the words of a beautiful Christian song, we can “trade these ashes in for beauty and wear forgiveness like a crown.”

It is Jesus Christ who heals our wounds. It is Jesus Christ who makes all things new. It is Jesus Christ who walks with us through all the moments of our lives. It is Jesus Christ who took our sin to the grave and rose triumphant over sin and death! Let us not be afraid, for on Easter Sunday the tomb will be empty and our hearts will be full!

In the peace of Christ,
Deacon Tim

 

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