"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

PALM (PASSION) SUNDAY (A) April 5, 2020

Procession Gospel Matthew 21: 1-11

Isaiah 50: 4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2: 6-11; Matthew 26: 14-- 27:66

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

The stock market has been having trouble these days. But if we had invested in blueberries we would be doing well. Have you ever noticed how popular blueberries have become. They show us at almost every meal. I have a friend who makes blueberry muffins for her husband. He has one each morning for breakfast. So one day I commented on it. Her response was, "Well, blueberries help our memory." Doesn’t that comment touch into a concern many of us have? The fear of losing our memory, and what that would mean for our past and present relationships, keeps us eating blueberries, doing crossword puzzles, and paying attention to televison specials on how to improve our memories. We are trying to keep our minds and memories active and strong.

But even with all these efforts, we still forget. We forget dates, appointments and names of people we have met. It’s embarrassing to be reminded by someone that we have forgotten an appointment, or the name of a person we have recently met.

Still, there are many important events we remember: the date of our birth, wedding anniversary (we hope!), the date of the death of a loved one, the birth of a child, or grandchild.

There are other events that we also remember – many of us seniors remember where we were when we heard of President Kennedy’s assassination. Music fans remember the shooting death of John Lennon in 1980. We remember, or are reminded by the national holiday, of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Each year, the media helps us recall the motor accident that killed Princess Diana of Wales.

These deaths were so senseless, violent and unexpected. Remembering them stirs up powerful feelings and emotions for us. This is the week we faithful remember another violent, shocking death. To the casual onlooker Jesus’ death might seem like the death of just one more famous and beloved person, whose life came to an abrupt end. Today we hear the beginning of this story as he enters Jerusalem one last time. For Jesus his death wasn’t sudden or unexpected. He could see it coming, but nevertheless, to use the image of the prophet Isaiah in today’s reading, Jesus set his face like flint towards Jerusalem. Nothing would turn him back, even the violence he would meet there. They would mock him, torture him, pierce his feet and hand and then bury him, hoping that would be the end: presuming that his disciples and the crowds would forget about him. But there was something the officials hadn’t planned on. God is a God of life, not death and God could draw life even from what is shattered and dead.

We remember him not just because he was once a beloved and famous religious leader, but because his death and rising from the dead is the full announcement to us about how much God loves us. That’s the reason he died – because he proclaimed God’s love for us. He spoke of a kingdom that includes all peoples, of all races, nationalities, economic backgrounds; one that was open to Jews and Gentiles. Jesus announced God’s forgiveness, and preached about a God who would even take back those who had wandered and turned their backs on God. He welcomed those who lived on the edge of society and traditional religious beliefs.

For these very reasons he was a threat to both the religious and Roman authorities, so they collaborated to get rid of him and his message. Jesus saw the end coming. He told his disciples again what was going to happen and he stayed faithful to his message. That cost him his life. He could have changed his message. He could have walked away and lived to a ripe old age, but he didn’t.

This week we remember Jesus’ violent and tragic death. But it wasn’t a senseless death, because for us it means life. He showed us how to live a faithful life as a child of God and, more than that, he was raised from the dead. When he returned, he gave us his Spirit so that we too could live as children of God. Our remembering is not simply a calling to mind past events that might stir up feelings of guilt, or sympathy. This week we’re remembering with gratitude that Jesus is a presence with us now and is a promise for our future.

The best way to remember Jesus is to receive his presence at this Eucharist and be nourished by it so that we can do what he did – set our face like flint against the violence of our world. We know that the earthy Jesus suffers no more, but the body of Christ in the world continues to suffer. For Jesus said, I was hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, and naked. We remember those words and so, nourished by the Eucharist, we continue to serve the suffering body of Christ.

Our crucified God’s passion speaks loudly of love and God’s closeness to us. Through Jesus’ suffering God chose to come close to all who suffer illness, lose, depression, and addiction. God is also close to all who choose to return love for evil; who forgive for past grievances; who reach out to the rejected. This week also reminds us that God is close to all who work for peace in a world that chooses violence and force to achieve its ends. We are reminded to let the grace Jesus offers us during this week we call "holy" work within us and transform us so that we can love others as he did.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040520.cfm