Sunday, March 28, 2010

Passion (Palm) Sunday - World Youth Day XXV - The Passion/Stations of the Cross

Passion (Palm) Sunday (Year "C") March 28, 2010 - "INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT" [Texts: Luke 19:28-40; Isaiah 50:4-7 [Psalm 22]; Philippians 2:6 -11; Luke 22:14-23:56]

All of Lent is oriented to the Paschal Triduum, the three-day solemn observance of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. Passion or Palm Sunday anticipates the pathos of Jesus' suffering and death, while the triumphal entry into Jerusalem in the processional entrance to the liturgy foretells the glorification of Christ's resurrection.

One of Isaiah's 'suffering servant' poems and Psalm 22, with their eerie evocations of the Passion, illustrate the overarching Lukan theme that 'it was necessary [that is, was the divine will] that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into His glory' (24:26).

Paul's letter to the Philippians likely quotes an early Christian hymn about Christ Jesus' act of emptying Himself of equality with God by His obedience to God's plan that led to a shameful death on the cross. This, Paul claims, merited God's response of raising Him from the dead, highly exalting Him above all creation.

The consequence of this earth-shattering event is the world's coming to know, through proclamation of the gospel, of God's design that, at every mention of the name of Jesus, 'every knee should bend, in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father'.

Each evangelist, while making use of ancient Christian traditions concerning the last hours of Jesus, quotes the Scriptures to give to these moments his own reflections on these pivotal moments of salvation history.

For example, Mark gives a stark picture of the brokenness Jesus suffered on the cross ('My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me? [15:34]), while Matthew, as he did with Jesus' infancy, shows how all that happened was 'so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled' (26:56).

John shows that, for the eyes of faith and despite appearances to the contrary, Jesus was in charge of all that transpired in the Passion which was the supreme moment of His glorification ('when Jesus knew that all was now finished, He said [in order to fulfil the scripture], "I am thirsty" [19:28]).

Luke's account of the closing days of Jesus' ministry and His Passion draw out emphases given to the Lord's life earlier. At the time of Peter's confession, Luke emphasized that Jesus' messianic status was not political but religious ('the Messiah of God' [9:20]).

During the messianic act of entering Jerusalem, Luke shows this is not an act of political messianism. Rather he notes that those who acclaimed Jesus were not the citizens of Jerusalem but 'the whole multitude of the disciples'. Their acclamations sought to praise God 'for all the deeds of power that they had seen' in the healings that characterized Jesus' ministry. This is not simply the glorification of Jesus, but praise of God for Jesus.

In the Passion, Luke takes pains to show that the Roman authorities have no cause to fear the followers of Jesus. The accusation against Jesus, that He was 'perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that He Himself is the Messiah, a king' (23:2) is judged unfounded by Pilate ('I have examined Him in your presence and have not this man guilty of any of your charges against Him'[23:14]). To underline this point, at Jesus' death, the centurion declares, 'certainly this man was innocent'.

Just as Luke depicted Jesus at prayer at all the high points of His ministry (before the choice of the Twelve, at the Transfiguration, prior to Peter's confession), so, too, during the Passion. Jesus' reassured Peter, when foretelling his coming denials, that 'I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail'.

The prayer of Jesus on the Mount of Olives becomes an agony which leads Him to pray more intensively, 'Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not My will but Yours be done'.

With the comforting brought by the angel, Jesus regains His serenity and invokes the Father's pardon of those who crucify Him ('Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing'). Likewise, on the cross, Jesus final prayer is one of confidently entrusting Himself to God, 'Father into your hands I commend My spirit' with words that echo those of the psalmist (31:5).

* * * * * *

WORLD YOUTH DAY XXV (March 28, 2010)

A quarter century ago, John Paul II began the event that has become an international institution: World Youth Day (WYD). WYD alternates between an international gathering at 2-3 year intervals (think Toronto 2002, Sydney 2008, Madrid 2011) and the other years when it is celebrated in each diocese, usually on Passion (Palm) Sunday.

This morning at 10 o'clock young francophones and anglophones will join me for a Mass with special involvement by, and prayers for, our youth (18-35). This will be broadcast live on SRC's Jour du Seigneur. Here is a report on this year's theme, which reprises John Paul II's message 25 years ago:

In his Letter to Youth for the 25th Anniversary Edition of World Youth Day, Pope Benedict XVI told the world's young Catholics to not let life's difficulties lead to discouragement:

"Instead nurture in your heart great hopes for fraternity, justice and peace. The future is in the hands of those who know how to seek and find strong convictions in life and hope"

The Ottawa Archdiocese, like many around the world, will mark World Youth Day XXV this Palm Sunday, March 28. Youth from our local church will gather with me at the Cathedral at 10 o’clock this morning for a Passion Sunday liturgy that will be broadcast live on Radio-Canada’s “Jour du Seigneur”.

In his message, the pope asks young people to build a world that lives solidarity and justice.

The Holy Father notes that changing the world means “allowing your talents and potential to bear fruit and committing yourself to constantly growing in faith and love.”

The theme the pope chose for the 2010 celebration was the same as the one Pope John Paul II selected for the very first World Youth Day. It comes from Jesus' encounter with the rich young man in St. Mark's Gospel: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The Holy Father remarked in his message that 2010 marks the 25th anniversary of the institution of World Youth Day. In it, he urged young people to not be afraid of confronting difficult questions about life such as, What makes life a success, and what gives meaning to life?


These questions, he said, need real answers that will meet “your authentic expectations for life and happiness.” Such answers, he added, will come from listening to God, who has a loving plan for each and every person on earth.

Pope Benedict remarked that the sadness felt by the rich young man in the Gospel account when he left Jesus is the same sadness that “springs in the heart of everyone when he doesn't have the courage to follow Christ and carry out the right choice. But it is never too late to answer him.”

Jesus showed how the Ten Commandments are essential guidelines for forming a conscience built on divine law, developing a sense of good and evil, and living a life of love, the Holy Father said.

“The commandments don't limit happiness, but rather show how to find it.” Following God's law goes against the modern mentality, which advocates a life completely free from limits, rules and objective norms and values so as to be able to follow one's own desires, he said.

But such a lifestyle doesn't bring true freedom, he said. Instead, it turns people into slaves to their immediate desires and to idols such as power and money.

* * * * * *

The WAY OF THE CROSS (Second Station): Jesus Carries His Cross

The Significance of the Passion of Our Lord (from the Spiritual Exercises Blog, March 27, 2010)

Think: What is the significance of a single act of sacrifice by one man so long ago? Why aren’t the teachings of Jesus hanging over our altars instead of Crucifixes? Why do we pay so much attention to the crucified Christ when He walked among us as resurrected for far longer than he hung upon the cross?

A Grace to Seek: a feeling of compassion toward Christ as He begins His painful sacrifice for us. We ask for a real sense of the importance of it all.
Reflection: The Passion of our Lord has always been food for the Catholic soul; in the sacrament of the Eucharist, in the image of the Crucifix, and in prayerful contemplation.

The Passion is where we find our God’s loving cry and self-offering, from His condemnation before Pontius Pilate to His lifeless body in the tomb. This cry has carried on through nearly two millennia and is discovered anew in the heart of all the forgiven today. We see ourselves in the suffering Jesus, our sins marking His back while our hearts break along with His; we betray Him and are betrayed with Him. We shun Him and we are shunned with Him. We see ourselves in His
crucifiers and we weep with His friends at the sight of Him being taken down from the Cross motionless.

“Behold the Lamb of God, Behold the one who takes away the sins of the world.” In English we understand “takes away” to be something like “removes” or “negates.” This is true that Jesus does this to the sins of the world. But another way to read “takes away” is to see it as “bears away” or “carries away.” When John the Baptist exclaimed “Behold the one who takes away the sins of the world,” he had been calling people to a conversion away from their sins. Now he saw the One who would bear away their sins on His back.

And so we are healed. We have been attacked by sin like deadly serpents in the desert. But when we turn our eyes upon the one held high and suffering death, we find our remedy. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” That is why we turn to look at the Cross. That is why the death of God on the Cross can appear so sweet to us while it is an insult to the Jews. That is why we proudly wear a symbol of the Crucifix around our necks while the pagans laugh at us as if we are mad. We know the truth about all of this and it transforms us: His death is our salvation and so we find hope in it. Nothing clears away the dullness of sin from our eyes like a long hard look at Christ’s suffering body.

This portion of the Spiritual Exercises has us work first on our compassion for Christ. We must allow ourselves to see Christ’s sufferings and we must permit ourselves to long for an end to those sufferings. This exercises that part inside of us that can grow cold if we have become too acquainted with the pleasures of sin. Caring for Christ more readily disposes is to caring for the least of His people. We must recognize His glorious entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as His triumphant entrance into the reality of defeat at the hands of sin that we all suffer. And we must allow ourselves to want to be near Him.

And so the Holy Week grieving really begins now. Should we think it too much to shed a tear for the one who endured so much for us? All of those poor people we see on the television suffering in faraway lands cannot feel our compassion. This can have a chilling effect on us and we can be coldly indifferent without much immediate consequence. But Jesus knows our heart. Will He find us cold? Or will we let ourselves remember and care, feel something deep for our Savior as He suffers for us. Will we look Him in the eye, or think of it all as a distant historical fact? We must apply ourselves to this task. We must take all of the power of our imagination and put it to work on the true object of our love if we are to increase our love.

Above all, depend on God’s grace.

Pray: Oh God, help me to consider what compassion I must offer at the foot of the Cross. How can I refuse anything to You, my Lord and my Creator, Who has done and suffered so much for my sake. You have given all that You have to me; You have given your sufferings, Your toil, Your thoughts, Your love, Your life, and the very last drop of Your heart’s blood for me. Let me give You all I have: all my affections, all my love, all my desires, my whole heart, my sufferings, my efforts, my sorrows, my joys, my life, my whole self. Amen.

The WAY OF THE CROSS (Third Station): Jesus Falls the First Time

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.
R. Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.


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