Palm Sunday

Why do you suppose that we read the Gospel on Palm Sunday as a play?  Why don’t we just read the Gospel the same way we do the other fifty-one weeks of the year?  The reason is because the Church wants us to participate; to be part of the scene that took place so many centuries ago.

Notice the transition that takes place in a half hour during mass.  At the beginning we all waved our palm branches and welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem.  “Huzzah!  Alleluia!  Jesus is the Messiah!”  Yet, now, just barely thirty minutes later we’re demanding that He be put to death.  “Crucify Him!”  That’s what you said, isn’t it?  It didn’t take long for us to turn on Him.

What happened in that week so long ago was almost as fast, especially if you measure it by the yardstick of history.  Just a couple of days and the chief priests and the elders convinced the people that Jesus wasn’t who He said he was.  He was a fraud! He was a liar!  The people had been duped!  The mob mentality took over and Jesus was killed.  His former friends and followers demanded that a murderer be released, not Jesus.

When we play our part in this story, we’re reminded that Jesus died for our sins.  Our sins were the reason He had to die.  Every time you and I commit a sin, it’s like we’re yelling “crucify Him” all over again.  Every time we lie or cheat or take a stapler home from the office, we’re yelling “crucify Him!”  When we talk about someone behind their backs or when we turn our backs and look the other way when millions of unborn babies are killed, we yell “crucify Him!”  

The time that elapses between our worshipping God and singing His praises at mass and our turning on Him with our actions, can be just minutes.  C’mon, we’ve all done it.  We exchange the sign of peace, receive Holy Communion, then we leave church and pull out on Lafayette Avenue and someone cuts us off.  We react by yelling or giving them the one-finger salute and there we are, “crucify Him!”.  Sometimes we even pass judgement on  others while we’re still here in church.  We haven’t even left the building and we’re yelling “crucify Him!”

Fortunately Jesus’ response if always the same:

“Forgive them, Father.  They know not what they do.”

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Transfiguration of the Lord

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; Listen to Him!”

Today we celebrate the Transfiguration of the Lord.  Jesus goes to the top of the mountain with Peter, John, and James.  They, and we, get a small glimpse of what God has in store for His Son, and for us.  His garments become white as the sun and Moses and Elijah appear with Him.

The three Apostles have fallen asleep.  I guess the climb was too much for them.  These guys do have a bad habit of dozing off at crucial times.  Remember the Garden of Gesthemani?  Fortunately, they wake up in time to see what’s going on.

Of course Peter, in his enthusiasm wants to build tents so the people can come and see Jesus and the other two.  But the sky suddenly gets dark and God’s voice booms out from the clouds:  “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to Him.” The Apostles fell silent and didn’t tell anyone at the time what they had seen.

Of course, what they had seen was very important.  It was a rare look into the future.  Jesus was transfigured, just as He was and you and I will be when we enter into God’s kingdom.

What they hear was even more important.  It’s the second time God has spoken directly to human beings about His Son.  The first time was at the River Jordan as He was baptized by John.  He IS my Son.  Listen to Him.

The message is no less important today than it was way back then.  That’s why we have an annual feast to remind us.  When He says “Listen to Him” He doesn’t mean sometimes.  He doesn’t mean when it’s convenient or when it won’t separate us from our friends.  He means always.  Every day.  In every circumstance.  His words are truth.  Anyone who speaks against His words is a liar.  That’s it.  End of story.

I don’t think they do so much anymore, but for a while it was a fad for kids to wear bracelets and T-shirts that said WWJD?, What would Jesus do?   But that’s not really the point.  Jesus walked on the water to get to his friends in the boat.  We can’t do that.

A better slogan might be WDJS?  What did Jesus say?  There’s no situation we can run into where the answer doesn’t lie in Jesus’ words.

“This is my beloved Son.  Listen to Him.”