Pastoral Sharings: "Palm Sunday"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Palm Sunday
Posted for March 29, 2015

Scholars tell us that what we have just heard is the oldest written account of the passion and death of Jesus. So by reading it in dramatic form as we have just done we are able to get very close to those most significant of all events in the history of the world. 

A few days ago when I was reading the various texts of today’s mass I was struck by the similarity between the account of getting the donkey for the ride into Jerusalem, that we had at the beginning of the mass, with the account of the preparations made for the Passover feast. 

In both cases it seems as though Jesus had made some private arrangements without the knowledge of his disciples. He had made prior provision for the donkey to be there ready for his entry into Jerusalem and he had already booked a suitable room in which he could hold the Last Supper. 

So these were not spontaneous events. Jesus knew what he was doing. We should be quite clear that Jesus was entirely aware of what was going to happen and he deliberately accepted the Father’s will.

I’d also just briefly like to draw your attention to the meal at Bethany right at the beginning of the account of St Mark’s Passion. It is often overlooked. 

This meal we are told took place two days before the Passover and so you could regard it is a sort of pre-Last Supper. At this meal in the house of Simon the Leper a woman anoints his feet with expensive oil. We generally assume that this woman is Mary Magdalene who is named in a similar account in the Gospel of John but Mark has her simply as an anonymous woman. 

This anointing occurs at a very significant moment, after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and immediately prior to his arrest and crucifixion. The whole point of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is that he is revealing himself as the Messiah. The word Messiah in Hebrew or Christ in Greek literally means ‘the anointed one’ —well here you have the anointing! 

But like everything else in the life of Jesus things are turned upside down. This anointing breaks all the rules. It is not in a royal palace it is in the house of a leper. It is not done by the High Priest but by an anonymous woman. There is no acclamation at the fitness of this wonderful action but instead Jesus’ closest disciples are totally unaware of its significance and get annoyed with the woman for wasting the expensive ointment. 

As if to underline the point even more, Mark brackets the incident with two betrayals: one the plotting of the Chief Priests and the Scribes and the other the betrayal by Judas.

Christ himself, however, proclaims the appropriateness of the woman’s action. He says, ‘She has anointed my body for its burial.’ Again things are upside down. A Messiah is anointed and comes into his own when he is enthroned not when he is buried. 

This short prelude to the events of the Passion and Death of Jesus deserves to be studied closely and prayed about deeply. It entirely typifies the paradoxical nature of the Kingdom Christ came to inaugurate.

His Kingdom is a Kingdom of truth, justice and peace. It is a Kingdom based on the Beatitudes. It is a Kingdom in which the poor and the disregarded are raised to the highest positions. It is a Kingdom based on love not power. It is a Kingdom in which Simon the Leper and Mary Magdalene are quite at home. It is a Kingdom which the likes of the Chief Priests and the Scribes see as a threat and do all in their power to undermine.

This is the Kingdom we aspire to and it is this Kingdom we will see inaugurated during the events of this Holy Week.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday, Year B—March 29, 2015
In our Lenten journey, have we discovered that we are studies in contrasts? Did we begin with great aspirations and are now feeling more than ever our fickleness? If so, we are truly ready for Palm Sunday.

Gospel (Read Mark 14:1-15:47)

Today, in the universal Catholic Church, we rise during Mass to hear a full reading of the Passion of Christ. What is our disposition today, having spent nearly 40 days praying, fasting, and doing acts of generosity? Most of us start Lent with some sense of seriousness about our relationship with God. We welcome a whole season in which we seek to know and love Him better. Is that happening? Are the results mixed?

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion: Don’t Keep the Secret
(This is a brief homily for after the Proclamation of the Passion. In my parish I would follow this with calling the people to join us in prayer on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Solemn Easter Vigil).

Today’s Proclamation of the Passion was from the Gospel of Mark. This is the Gospel that often presents crowds of people pressing on Jesus to be healed. Jesus heals many people in this Gospel, but he then he directs them, “Tell no one about this.” Jesus silences devils who call out from the possessed that they know who He is. Why? Why the secrecy? Why does Mark present what scripture scholars would call, the Messianic Secret? The message behind the secret is that no one can understand the healings or the Messiah until they understand the cross.

Does God Still Speak to Us?
I sat quietly; a little disheartened by a conversation I had just had. The person I was talking to told me that she didn’t believe God really talks to her. In fact, she wasn’t sure that He talked to anyone really. I felt a sadness creep into my heart for her. How could she believe that God doesn’t talk to her? How could she miss His voice when there are times I hear it as clearly as I hear my sweet little ones’ voices as they call out, “Mama!”?

Seek God’s Face
Love hides its face from two classes of souls: the false lovers and the true. The false confuse appetite with love, and so fail to recognize the real thing when it comes to them; the true are kept in darkness about their love, and so add faith and hope to their search for it. The search in faith and hope for the love that seems to be always out of reach is in fact love already discovered.

Purity of Heart is Needed to See God
I have mentioned here before that my mentor and teacher, Fr. Francis Martin, once asked, “Do you know what is the biggest obstacle for us in understanding the Word of God?” I was expecting him to answer his own question by saying something like, “We don’t know enough Greek,” or “We haven’t studied the historical critical method carefully enough.” But he looked around the room and then said, “The biggest obstacle we have to understanding the Word of God is our sin.”

Three Ways Everyone Is Seeking Christ
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

These words of Jesus Christ, in John 14:6, constitute one of the most forceful expressions of what could be called the scandal of particularity. One Dominican priest summed it up best this way:

Five Lessons from Jesus about the Path to Glory
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

As Christians, we must be people of prayer—pure and simple. If we do not pray, we do not have a relationship with Christ.

There are many types of prayer. Among them, the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists blessing, adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise. Each of these prayers can be expressed in different ways. Again, the catechism mentions vocal prayer, meditation and contemplation.

Don’t let this overwhelm you, instead accept that God calls and invites you to a wonderful personal relationship and prayer is one of the principal ways you spend time with Him.

In her autobiography, St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote this about prayer

Jesus to St. Faustina on Spiritual Warfare: 25 Secrets
In Cracow-Pradnik, June 2, 1938, the Lord Jesus directed a young Polish Sister of Mercy on a three-day retreat. Faustina Kowalska painstakingly recorded Christ’s instruction in her diary that is a mystical manual on prayer and Divine Mercy. Having read the Diary a few times in the past 20 years, I had forgotten about the unique retreat that Christ gave on the subject of spiritual warfare. Then, recently, I was invited to lead a retreat in Trinidad based on Christ’s “Conference on Spiritual Warfare” as presented in the Diary. The Sanctuary of the Holy Family, an amazing group of lay leaders in service to the Archbishop and priests, sponsored the retreat in the Archdiocese of Trinidad and we filled the Seminary of St. John Vianney to ponder this teaching.

What Is Temptation, Why Does God Permit It, and What Are Its Sources?
I will be on the Catholic Answers radio show today (Monday, March 23) at 6:00 PM Eastern Time. The topic will be temptation, what it is and how to avoid and overcome it. I’ve assembled some notes in preparation and I’ll present them (in two parts) in the blog. Today’s post focuses on what temptation is, why God allows it, and what its sources are. Tomorrow I’ll present the second half of the notes, which center on how to avoid and overcome temptation.

Nine Things Gets Wrong About Jesus recently published an article by former Evangelical-turned-freethinker Valerie Tarico titled 9 things you think you know about Jesus that are probably wrong.

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking contained in her arguments, but they’ve been making the rounds in social media, and therefore worthy of a response.

Below are each of the nine points, and how to answer if you find yourself confronted with them.

Of Human Dignity
The following address was given at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on March, 17 2015.

Vatican II ended in December 1965 with an outpouring of enthusiasm and hope. The Council’s hope was grounded in two things: a renewed Catholic faith, and confidence in the skill and goodness of human reason.

Half a century has passed since then. A lot has happened. The world today is a very different place than it was in 1965. And much more complex. That’s our reality, and it has implications for the way we live our faith, which is one of the reasons we’re here tonight. …more

Can Human Free Will and Divine Predestination Both be True?
If God is not love but only knowledge, then it is difficult or impossible to see how human free will and divine predestination can both be true. But if God is love, there is a way.

Freedom and predestination is one of the most frequently asked questions among my students—partly because of modern man’s great concern for freedom, but also, I think, for the largely unconscious reason that we intuitively know both these things must be true because they are the warp and woof of every good story. If a story has no plot, no destiny—if its events are haphazard and arbitrary—it is not a great story.

What Is Serenity and How Can We Grow in It?
During Lent, a gift to seek is greater serenity. The word comes from the Latin serenus, meaning clear or unclouded (skies). By extension it thus means calm, without storm.

Serenity has become more used in modern times with the advent of many 12-Step programs, which use the Serenity Prayer as an important help to their work.

The Weight of Glory
We can believe we are mere mortals dreaming the dream of immortality, while in fact, we are immortals dreaming the terrible dream of mere mortality.

We all know what the weight of glory is, whether or not we have read Lewis’ golden sermon.

Archbishop Chaput: What Is True Religious Freedom?
In a lecture at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia’s shepherd discusses emerging threats to religious freedom a half century after the Council Fathers approved Dignitatis Humanae.

PHILADELPHIA — In an address on the state of religious freedom in the United States and across the globe, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia targeted the shifting semantics that obscure objective truth, as church-state tensions escalate and U.S. society debates new definitions of human freedom and the family.

Is the Bible Inspired And Without Error?
The Pontifical Biblical Commission publishes document on proper interpretation of Scripture and tackles tough questions about biblical violence, the status of women, historical errors and who authored what books.

The Pontifical Biblical Commission was asked by Pope Benedict XVI to study the question of the proper interpretation of Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution that deals with the transmission of the word of God.

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself
“You don’t have to like everyone but you have to love everyone”: A simple way of explaining the second great commandment to our children. Love your neighbor as yourself.

“Even bad guys, Mummy?”

“Yes, even bad guys. You don’t have to like what they do but you do have to love them.”

But what does that mean exactly? Is it a throw away line? Can we say and do whatever we want in relation to a person so long as we pay lip service to some sort of wishy-washy love? Or must we love our neighbor by supporting every single decision they make and characteristic they possess? No, but both of these attitudes are quite common.

Serve the Poor or Go to Hell–A Step by Step Guide to Avoiding Eternal Damnation
“I’ve said many times over many years that if we ignore the poor, we will go to hell: literally,” Archbishop Charles Chaput said, most recently, here.

I love that. I am well aware that, just as perfect contrition is better than imperfect contrition, it is better to serve the poor out of love for God and neighbor than out of fear of reprisal.

But I also know that, to get over spiritual and moral inertia, sometimes we need a little push.

As It Was in the Beginning is Now, and Ever
The other night, I was frustrated with my critics, frustrated with my children, and frustrated with my disobedient German shepherds who take my donning of a coat to mean the dawning of a walk, even near midnight. I was grateful to be pulled outside though. The sky was clear beyond bits of late snow, one of those spirity nights when the winds of impending Spring wipe away the clouds, and the starlight casts shadows. “My God,” I prayed, “the stars are so bright!”

A Mission of Love
The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September should be more than a vast Catholic “gathering of the clans” around Pope Francis—and so should the months between now and then. If the Church in the United States takes this opportunity seriously, these months of preparation will be a time when Catholics ponder the full, rich meaning of marriage and the family: human goods whose glory is brought into clearest focus by the Gospel. Parents, teachers and pastors all share the responsibility for seizing this opportunity, which comes at a moment when marriage and the family are crumbling in our culture and society.

Four Critical Principles for Catholic Father
It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” (Pope St. John XXIII)

I often feel completely lost and befuddled as a Catholic father in today’s world.

How do I set the right example?

How do I help my sons grow up with a strong Catholic faith?

How do I prepare them for a culture that often teaches and rewards actions counter to what we believe and how we should live?

Overcoming Sinful Anger
If you read anything by St. Francis de Sales, you come away with the impression that he was patience incarnate. He talks endlessly about the wonderful benefits of meekness, gentleness, and kindness—especially to those who deserve it least.

Yet, many don’t realize that this great saint struggled for most of his life with a fiery temper and an intense impatience. By his own admission, it took him nearly 20 years to overcome these tendencies. It is a testament to his fierce battle against self that he is known and remembered for the exact opposite virtues of patience and gentleness, rather than those that came easily to his nature.

What Other World Religions Think About Jesus
People trying to discover the truth about God should take a hard look at Jesus before looking anywhere else. While that may sound like a bold assertion in and of itself, it really isn’t when you consider that every major religious movement considers Jesus to be an important religious figure. Every religion makes some effort to account for His existence and teaching. Even secular scholars are interested in the life of Jesus—for example, the recently debuted CNN series, Finding Jesus, explores the person of Jesus from a historical perspective.

This ought to give seekers a reason to pause and consider the life of Jesus seriously.

Here is what a few other major world religions believe about Jesus:

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