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Contents: Volume 2 - PALM SUNDAY (B)
- March 28, 2021

 

 

PALM

SUNDAY

2021


1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP
2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller
3. -- Brian Gleeson CP
4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ
5. --(Your reflection can be here!)


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Palm Sunday 2021

Palm Sunday readings are among the most familiar to Christians. Abundant graces followed the original story in real time and many came to believe and follow Jesus's teachings more closely and more knowledgeably. Hopefully, as we read/hear the parts of the story again, we will gain more insight into these happenings and they will affect our lives in meaningful ways.

Will that really be the case with us? What notable effect will hindsight and continued graces have on us? For me, one way to cooperate with those ever-available graces is for me to re-read these long readings part by part throughout this week. I find it helpful to try to see the motive behind a person's action and then check out how that motive plays out in my own life.

One specific example is Jesus's strong determination to do the Father's will. A second is the envy of the chief priests. A third is the human fear that clouded Peter's good intentions.

Many of the original cast of characters in this life drama reflected on what they experienced and then implemented positive changes in their lives. Grace led the way to proclaim the Good News and we are Christians today because of them. How will future Christians be shaped by what we do in response to the many graces available to us?

Blessings,
Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP
Southern Dominican Laity
lanie@leblanc.one

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Palm Sunday March 28, 2021

Processional Gospel Mark 11:1-10; Isaiah 50:4-7; Responsorial Psalm 22; Philippians 2:6-11; Gospel Verse Philippians 2:8-9; Mark 14:1-15:47

How can a week that begins with such hope, such support by the crowd be crowned with such despair? How can the realization that long standing prophecies are being fulfilled and dashed into rubble and emptiness? In this one week – the holiest of weeks for Jews – we go from certainty that thousands of years of faith is about to be fulfilled to an understanding that all is lost? Only women have the courage to stand with their Messiah. Only women understand his anointing. It is an unnamed woman who enters the house in Bethany with a stone jar – alabaster – filled with an extraordinarily expensive scented ointment. What was her motivation? Who is she? Why break an expensive jar so it can never be used again? Why use a gathering at table to perform this action?

Jesus gives her cover by insisting that she anointed him in preparation for his death. No one at table that day thought Jesus would be murdered in trumped up charges about his religious or civil loyalty. He had huge crowds following him. His name and his preaching were the subject of daily conversations. His miracles, his healings were indications of his close relationship with Yahweh – the God who claimed to be constantly and effectively present to his people. So many questions! Perhaps it is no wonder that our first reaction is to examine ourselves, our allegiances, how we would have reacted to these events in Jerusalem and in Bethany. So we enter this holiest of weeks bearing our guilt for sin, for omissions, for failure.

There is much for each to consider in this most holy of weeks. The events we remember sum up what the Messiah – the anointed one – is clearly about. His triumphal entry into Jerusalem indicated he had won over the hearts and minds of the crowds. However, not so much the hearts and minds of the occupying Romans or the faith, hearts, and minds of the religious leaders and their entourage (the Sadducees). The triumphal entry is Jesus’ inauguration as the Lord, the leader of the Kingdom of God. The anointing at the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany was reminiscent of the anointing of Saul, the first king of Israel, and of David his successor. It marked them servants for the people. The anointing by the unnamed woman marked Jesus as the long hoped for Messiah. We should remember that Messiah means the anointed one. We should understand that the Greek term Christ means the anointed one as well.

Let us remember what transpired in the illegal night-time gathering of the Sanhedrin. That body of religious leadership for the most part – not all, apparently – wanted to dispose of Jesus and his teachings about God as compassionate and merciful toward all persons, even the unclean, the lepers, the sinners, the adulterers. The Jews were the people of the Law. The chief priests and Pharisees interpretation of the Law meant exact compliance with the letter of the law. Jesus seemed to flaunt that interpretation. Jesus needed to be eliminated. But they could not just take him outside the city gates and stone him as they would later do with Stephen. It was necessary that Jesus be disgraced, brought low, and made an example by the most horrific form of torture and death possible. That would be an end to this Jesus and his message. The only thing they could come up with to condemn Jesus according to the law what his statement on the occasion of his cleansing the Temple of thieves and charlatans. The judgment against Jesus was that he said that the temple – that ancient symbol of the presence of God – would be destroyed and that it would be raised up again in three days. These people should have remembered the words of Jeremiah more than seven hundred years earlier. He shouted at the people – “Put not your trust in the deceitful words: ‘This is the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord.’ Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds, if each of you deals justly with his neighbor, if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place, or follow strange gods to your own harm, will I remain with you in this place…” (Jeremiah 7) It is not the building, the place, the nation but the hearts and minds of each that allows for God’s presence.

So, the religious leadership condemned Jesus to preserve their way of thinking, their cultic rituals, and their comfortable existence. The temple trope was their justification. They turned Jesus over to the Roman occupiers for execution. In this way, both the civil and the religious leadership and autocrats would eliminate Jesus threatening their status quo.

Pilate quickly saw through the perfidy of the Sanhedrin. He saw their attempt to assign execution to the hated Romans as a way of avoiding backlash from the crowds of followers of Jesus. He saw their motivation as coming from their envy of Jesus reputation. Pilate looked for a way to release Jesus. But the resolve of the Sanhedrin moved from a base on Jewish faith to a basis of what Pilate would understand. They claimed that Jesus declared himself king. This threat of insurrection got Pilate’s attention. He questioned Jesus about it. And Jesus responded to Pilate, insisting that he was indeed a king. During the following scourging and mocking by the Roman cohort they taunted him as being King of the Jews. The inscription that Pilate fashioned over Jesus’ head on the cross read – This is the King of the Jews. That inscription was written in three languages, announcing to the entire world that this was indeed the King of the Jews. So, it happened that making it clear that Jesus claimed to Kingship of all humanity. This cross was his throne. This king, anointed by a nameless woman, condemned by the chief priests with the complicity of the Sanhedrin, mocked as king by the Roman occupiers, and presented as king of the Jews by the Roman authority had indeed become King. It is God’s way to transform the folly of man into a message of revelation.

It was not till Pentecost – some fifty days later – that the disciples of Jesus came to understand what happened. We should note in all this it is the women who followed Jesus who got the message. It was an unnamed woman who anointed him in the fashion which kings had been anointed as investiture of royal authority and leadership. It was women who watched as he assumed his throne on the cross. It was women who followed the body to the borrowed tomb that was only a stopping place for the creation of the Kingdom of God. It was a woman who shouted the news to the disciples huddled in terror in the upper room – she shouted that he was risen, the tomb was empty. The women are often unnamed. The “un-naming” is a frequent device of Scripture. When a person is unnamed, that person and the characteristics of that person are meant to include all individuals who demonstrate the same characteristics. Early in the narrative of God’s presence with the people, it is the Pharaoh who is unnamed. That powerful tyrant stands for all who use power to enslave with chains, with economic deprivation, with denial of education, and with denial of rights to what allows persons to flourish. Likewise, it is the woman with the alabaster jar of scented oil who stands for all those women who through the ages of Christianity have made the Kingdom flourish. It is the faith of those billions of mothers and sisters who instructed, lead by example, and brought caring love to the wounded, the infirm, the uneducated, those dying from physical and spiritual hunger. We should not forget this lesson.

So, if we look at this Palm Sunday’s liturgy of the Word, we are led to understand the power and the glory of the Kingdom of God. At first there is shouting and hosannas. Then follows a meal first at the house of Simon the Leper at which Jesus is anointed. Then follows the Passover meal at which the presence of God among us is made a permanent event. In the taking of unleavened bread and a cup of wine, Jesus transforms human life to life that is totally available to the presence of God. In our liturgy of sacrifice following the consecration of that bread and that wine is there is the instruction of Jesus to “do this in memory of me.” What exactly does Jesus mean? That is how we keep the memory of Jesus, by each of us making Jesus present to others. When we walk that terrible rough and painful path to the throne on the hill of calvary in the events of living, we make him present by our mercy, our love, our compassion. When the world is crushed by the pandemic we respond with love to those suffering from disease, from isolation, from economic deprivation. When we experience the murder of many, we reach out to those with such terrible loss. Beyond that we make efforts to remove weapons of war from our streets, from our homes, and from our entertainments. Violence offers no healing solution to life’s troubles and conflicts. When we experience the degradation of our common home, the earth, by the greed and rapacious fallen nature of humanity, we must be called upon to be healers of the wounds and scars that have been inflicted. The examples of how the way in which we live makes Jesus, the risen Lord present are many and all encompassing.

This is the Kingdom of God established by the King anointed. He was welcomed as prince of peace, condemned by those with power by religion and by politics and violence, lifted up on the throne of the cross, buried in a borrowed tomb, and confirmed in his kingdom by God himself on the third day after death on the cross.

What does all this mean? What are we to take away from the liturgy of this most holy of weeks? Why should we look upon a person nailed to an instrument of torture with love and appreciation? Why should we follow this person whose good deeds, whose love, whose healing presence, and whose welcoming of the weak among us is evident? Maybe that is the point of holy week. In living as humans, weak but yet endowed as we are, we are driven by a desire to be more than we are. We have an intuitive understanding that we are somehow God-connected. The tension of being more than creature and yet less than angels can force us into violence, hatred, or despair. Yet, in the example, the role-modeling of this God/Man we come to understand how we arrive at completion. It is in the everyday suffering, in the everyday celebration of joy that we come into the fullness of the Kingdom of God.

As we “do in his memory” we bring to the altar of sacrifice what we are, what we have, what we suffer, those events in which we discover our delight. That is the gift we bring to the altar – that is the sacrifice we offer to our Creator. And in his sharing in those times, Jesus becomes king in fact of all creation. Thus, our daily events in truth are how we participate in this Kingdom of God. It is there that we find rest, it is there that we find hope, it is there we practice and experience the love of our Creator. It is in His name and presence that we experience with gratitude and hope those who love us. It is in his kingdom we are made complete and rest with love for all the Father has made. It is there that we rise with the Lord in bright light, in flowering nature, and in brotherhood and sisterhood that endures and overcomes violence, hatred, poverty, theft, and isolation. May it be so! May we also be lifted up with the Lord in this holiest of weeks of our year!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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HUMANITY ON SHOW – THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY: PASSION (PALM) SUNDAY B

‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ (Afro-American spiritual)

The Passion of Jesus continues in suffering people until the end of the world. COVID-19 has been particularly brutal. It has destroyed the health of millions of patients and caused the untimely deaths of too many. Millions more have watched their loved ones struggling to breathe, and, all too often, slipping away. It seems that the whole human race has suffered in one way or another. Lockdowns have led to the closure of churches, schools, factories, offices, shops, pubs, and cafes, and a tidal wave of unemployment. The need for social distancing has meant masks and hot spots, shutting of state and national borders, and quarantining returned travellers. Individuals, stuck at home with nowhere to go, have been feeling fearful, lonely and isolated, and, in some instances, have been subject to threats or actual violence from their partners.

While it has been a tragedy for too many, the pandemic has also produced a great deal of good. Governments have given funds to the struggling for their sheer survival. Many Individuals have reached out with acts of care and kindness to the shut-ins and handicapped. I was particularly touched by the news of the 20-year-old university student cooking free meals for hospital workers. And what about the health-care workers themselves? How about their sheer goodness in their round-the-clock care of those with COVID-19? They remind me of Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus to carry his cross, and the truth of the saying, ‘… love is from God’ (1 John 4:7).

From the here and now of our shared suffering, let us go to the there and then Mark’s story of the Passion, as told today. There is much we can learn from his emphasis on the behaviour of the male disciples of Jesus. He has chosen them ‘to be sent out to proclaim the message’ (3:14) of the coming of the kingdom of God on earth. But Jesus has also chosen them to be ‘with him’ (3:14), i.e., to be his companions, brothers, friends, and supporters. Well, how do they measure up? How do they stand by Jesus in his last days, as he faces one horror after another? Mark tells it like it is. They fail Jesus. They let him down – badly, and in letting him down, they let themselves down!

They begin with good intentions. As they are eating the Last Supper, all of a sudden Jesus drops the bombshell, ‘one of you will betray me’ (14:18). At this, they begin to be distressed and say one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ (14:19). Then, on their way to the Mount of Olives, ‘… Jesus drops a second bombshell when he says, ‘you will all become deserters’ (!4:27). Peter protests, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’ The reply of Jesus is blunt, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the crock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ Still, Peter insists, ‘Even though I must die with you, I shall not deny you.’ And that’s what they all say (14:27-31).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus says to his best buddies, Peter, James, and John, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ But when he goes back to them three times for sympathy and understanding, he finds them asleep, leading him to remark, ‘the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak’ (Mk 14:32-38). Meanwhile, ‘Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve’, goes to the Jewish priests and offers to hand over Jesus for money. With an insincere kiss, he betrays Jesus to their guards. Shortly after, the remaining disciples abandon Jesus and scurry off for their lives (14:43-50).

Somehow Peter gets back on track and starts to follow his Leader from a distance. But under questioning by servant-girls of the high priest, he denies that he has been with Jesus, that he has been a follower, and under oath, that he even knows Jesus. Twice a rooster crows. Peter remembers the prediction of Jesus and breaks down in tears (14:66-72).

A proverb states, ‘the way to hell is paved with good intentions!’ His failing disciples find themselves in the haunting hell of their profound guilt, for neglecting, betraying, denying, and deserting Jesus. I once witnessed the shame and sorrow of this in a Good Friday parish drama. Men from the parish took the part of the original disciples. Each introduced himself as ‘I am Peter’, ‘I am Judas’, ‘I am James’, and ‘I am John’, before going on to tell their truth. But their sad and shameful stories were offset by three others, speaking of how they supported Jesus. One began, ‘I am Simon of Cyrene’, the second, ‘I am the Roman Centurion’, and the third, ‘I am Joseph of Arimathea’.

The prophet, Zechariah, has said, ‘when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child …’ (12:10). As we see him suffering and dying, how do we feel about any way we may have neglected, betrayed, denied, or deserted Jesus? On the other hand, how have we been his supporters, in everything for which he both lived and died?

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

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Year B: Passion Sunday
“Hosanna in the highest heavens”

When I was a teenager, I grew up in Wimbledon – a village in South London that is famous for only one thing – every June there is a tennis tournament that attracts players and spectators from all over the world. It’s supposed to be the oldest tennis tournament in the world – I’m not absolutely sure if that’s true. But it’s certainly the most prestigious.

And I remember particularly the first day I went there. It used to be that if you lived locally, you could walk up in the evenings, when most of the crowd would have gone and get in for free. And then you could walk around the outside courts and often see some of the big names playing their doubles matches. The first time I went, I went onto one of the outer courts and saw Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase. One of the matches had finished early and it was announced that Connors and Nastase would be coming out to play against two other players that I hadn’t heard of. There were huge cheers and suddenly loads of other people surged in from the other courts to see the game and even before the players came out, there was cheering and shouting and singing. And then the players came out and there was a huge cheer. For the occasion, just for a laugh, Connors and Nastase had come in fancy dress, dressed as lords with bowler hats and tail suits. They came out and paraded in their finery to the cheers of the crowd. And then they stripped off to their tennis whites and prepared to play.

The game was amazing. I had never been to a top-level tennis match before and the pace and the power of shots was incredible. Having got there early, I was right at the front, by the side of the court. And the ball was being hit so fast that I couldn’t even see it. I could see the movement of the players and the rackets; I could hear the sound of the ball being hit; but it was going so fast that I couldn’t actually see the ball. And Connors and Nastase were magnificent; there were a class above their opponents. They played at the height of their game. Every ball went precisely where it was supposed to go; there were trick shots and amazing pieces of skill. It was a privilege just to be there. Jimmy Connors was so cool he even kept on his bowler hat throughout. And every point was greeted with huge applause by the delighted crowd. And finally at the end, when they had won, six-love, six-love, six-love, they bowed to the crowd, put back on their lordly robes and left the court. And behind them trailed their two bedraggled, exhausted, devastated, defeated opponents, that nobody had ever heard of and had now been thrashed six-love, six-love, six-love by much better players who hadn’t even taken the game seriously.

On my way out, wondering about what I had just seen, I walked under the gates of Wimbledon Lawn Tennis club. You see, when they first built the place – a hundred and fifty-odd years ago – they knew a bit about victory and defeat. They knew that there are times in everybody’s life when we feel like Palm Sunday – exalted, exhilarated, the best there’s ever been – and everyone loves us.

And they knew that there are also times in everyone’s life when we feel like Good Friday – beaten, destroyed, hopeless, killed, annihilated, wiped out – and nobody loves us.
And they knew that sometimes both things can happen in the course of a single week. If you don’t believe me, just ask Andy Murray.
And so, when they built the place, they wrote over the gates a line from Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’:

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
and treat those two impostors just the same...”

It’s an important insight – because we do not always get what we expect or deserve in life. Just as in tennis, two people may play almost equally well, try equally hard, but one will meet with Triumph and the other with Disaster.

After every Palm Sunday, there comes a Good Friday. But after every Good Friday, there comes an Easter Sunday. This week, we will meet with Triumph today and Disaster on Good Friday and we will treat those two impostors just the same.

Because our hope is in Easter.

Let us stand and profess our Faith just as the people of Jerusalem did – Hosanna in the highest heavens - and let us try to live up to it in the coming week.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

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2 EASTER (B) The TRIDUUM PALM SUNDAY LENT V LENT IV LENT III


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