26 March 2015

'Yet, not what I want, but what you want.' Sunday Reflections, Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Year B

From The Gospel of John (2003) directed by Philip Saville

[John 12:12-16 runs from 0:00 to 0:56]

The Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem

Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada)

John 12:12-16.

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!”

Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

At the Mass

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

Gospel Mark 14:1 – 15:47 or 15:1-39 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada)   

Chalice, Gilt Silver, 1450 - 1500, Unknown Hungarian Goldsmith
Hungarian National Museum, Budapest [Web Gallery of Art]

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark 14:23-24).

Escuelas Pías de San Antón, Madrid [Web Gallery of Art]

“Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36).

As we enter Holy Week we can be overwhelmed by the sheer richness of the liturgy. I have always found it difficult to say anything about or during these days. American writer Flannery O'Connor in the quotation below touches on the inner suffering of some as they struggle to believe in Jesus, something she knew from personal experience. She also embraced the Cross in coming to terms with lupus, which had caused her father's early death. His death was for her when she was 15, an experience of embracing the Cross.

(25 March 1925 - 3 August 1964 [Wikipedia]

Flannery O'Connor grew up as a devout Catholic in Georgia, in the 'Bible Belt' of the USA. In 1951 she was diagnosed with lupus, from which her father had died when she was 15. She said of her writings, The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism. She also wrote, Grace changes us and change is painful. The following quotation reflects this [emphasis added]:

I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.

May Holy Week be a time when each of us can embrace whatever share in the Cross God has in mind for us and may it prepare us to celebrate the Joy and Hope of Easter once again.

World Youth Day 2015
Young pilgrims from Rio de Janeiro, site if WYDRio2013, receiving the Cross during WYD in Madrid 21 August 2011 [Wikipedia]

In years when World Youth Day is not a major international gathering it is observed in Rome on Palm Sunday. The Message of Pope Francis for this year's WYD has as its theme Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt 5: 8). One quotation from it echoes the words of Flannery O'Connor above: 

The Lord’s invitation to encounter him is made to each of you, in whatever place or situation you find yourself. It suffices to have the desire for “a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter you; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 3). We are all sinners, needing to be purified by the Lord. But it is enough to take a small step towards Jesus to realize that he awaits us always with open arms, particularly in the sacrament of Reconciliation, a privileged opportunity to encounter that divine mercy which purifies us and renews our hearts.

When fishes flew and forests walked   
   And figs grew upon thorn,   
Some moment when the moon was blood   
   Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
   And ears like errant wings,   
The devil’s walking parody   
   On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
   Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,   
   I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
   One far fierce hour and sweet:   
There was a shout about my ears,
   And palms before my feet.

Source: The Collected Poems of G. K. Chesterton (Dodd Mead & Company, 1927)

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