Palm (Passion) Sunday B

B210: Why did Jesus “become obedient unto death” (Second Reading: Phil 2:6-11)? And what does that have to do with me today?

There is a double answer, both of which say the same thing. First, it was God’s will that Jesus accept his human condition in life, freely and fully. He not only chose to become man, he freely chose to offer himself, his very life, to redeem us from our sins. Secondly, this discloses something of his very mission. As you know, prophets like Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist all suffered when they tried to bring Truth into the world. This was Jesus’ mission also: to spread the Good News, to teach truth and to be that truth.

It is highly likely that any disciple who tries to bring truth to others will experience pain and rejection, just as their Master experienced pain and rejection. Pope John Paul II wrote a magnificent encyclical entitled “The Splendor of Truth” which addressed the ways in which some theologians are distorting the truth, or trying to evade the truth with erroneous theories (called proportionalism and consequentialism) which would attempt to deny the existence of actions that are objectively evil under any and all circumstances.

You and I are also called to be “obedient to the truth,” and for us that means to accept the official teaching of the Magisterium in the area of faith and morals. As the Holy Father said in a speech to the United Nations in 1995, freedom is not a license to do what we like. Rather, freedom is ordered to the truth and deteriorates into license if it is detached from the truth.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! We need to be familiar with this: “there are some concrete acts – such as fornication – that it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil” (CCC #1755). There are no exceptions. It is the duty of the teaching office of the Catholic Church, the Magisterium, to “preserve God’s people from deviations and defections” from truth (CCC #890).

Reflection: does my pride get in the way of humbly submitting in obedience to the teaching office of the Church? Do I find myself fighting against the Holy Spirit, who preserves the Church from error in faith and morals?

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Q366: Where is the “Good News” in today’s First Reading (Isaiah 50:4-7)? All we hear about is abuse of a good man: beatings, beard-plucking, buffeting, spitting… How does that apply to me and my daily life?

Actually, you will hear more than that – and the Good News – if you focus on what the Servant did to encounter all of this opposition. First of all, one of his gifts from God is an ability to speak eloquently. But to whom does he speak? “To the weary”! It is the ordinary, marginalized person who is the recipient of attention, as the compassionate Servant tries to support them and encourage them with the truth of God’s abiding presence with them.

The second bit of “Good News” comes when we remember that the Disciple (the “Servant” in this prophecy) is called to be like the Master. The Servant listens every morning for God’s word, and God does indeed speak to him every morning. This is where he receives the “word” that he passes along, the word that builds up “the weary.”

The Christian community sees this prophecy as being fulfilled in Jesus Christ. As his Disciples, we are called to acquire the same attitude. We begin – in fact we must begin our day by listening to the Lord. “He who is ignorant of scripture is ignorant of Christ.” When we listen, He will indeed speak to our hearts; but it is up to us to make this daily time to listen. Then we will hear the words of support that we need to carry out to a weary world, to those truly in need around us.

You, too, may be buffeted and abused because of your efforts to bring the Good News to others, or your efforts to confront the social injustice that causes or accentuates poverty and/or marginalization. Rejoice in your suffering! Because he prophet says later (v. 9), “The Lord is my help! Who can prove me wrong?”

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! This First Reading is one of the four Servant Songs which proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion (CCC #713). His suffering and death – for us and our salvation – was redemptive (CCC #601). We are called to participate in this mystery of redemptive suffering, by taking up our cross and following his example (CCC #618). But first we listen and build up our faith (CCC #2656).

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He Emptied Himself

Palm Sunday is the overture to Holy Week.  The procession with palms celebrates Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem and his being acclaimed by the people for his miracles and teachings. But we are quickly reminded that there is a price to be paid before the final victory. Isaiah prophesied: “I gave my back to those who beat me.” and St. Paul describes the meaning of the cross: “He emptied himself, obediently accepting even death on the cross.” This is Jesus’ real victory, his self- emptying , his self-giving on the cross to open for us the road to the Father.

Come, Holy Spirit, and fill us with the love and the courage to give of ourselves so that we and those to whom we give ourselves may rise with Jesus to the Father.

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