From the Pastor 04/09/17
Holy Week is upon us, and today we once again visit the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. Once again we act out the supreme irony of our faith. One minute we are praising God; then on the next we turn our backs on Him.
On that first Palm Sunday, the people also honored Jesus verbally: “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’” In their praise of Jesus, the Jewish crowds were quoting Psalm 118:25–26, an acknowledged prophecy of the Christ. The allusion to a Messianic psalm drew resentment from the religious leaders present: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’” However, Jesus saw no need to rebuke those who told the truth. He replied, “I tell you ... if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Some 450 to 500 years prior to Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, the prophet Zechariah had prophesied the event we now call Palm Sunday: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The prophecy was fulfilled and it was indeed a time of rejoicing as Jerusalem welcomed their King. Unfortunately, the celebration was not to last. The crowds looked for a Messiah who would rescue them politically and free them nationally, but Jesus had come to save them spiritually. First things first, and mankind’s primary need is spiritual, not political, cultural, or national salvation.
Even as the coatless multitudes waved the palm branches and shouted for joy, they missed the true reason for Jesus’ presence. They could neither see nor understand the cross. That’s why, “as Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies ... will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” It is a tragic thing to see the Savior but not recognize Him for who He is. The crowds who were crying out “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday were crying out “Crucify Him!” later that week. There is coming a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The worship will be real then. Also, John records a scene in heaven that features the eternal celebration of the risen Lord: “There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” These palm-bearing saints will shout, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb,” and who can measure the sum of their joy?
Today we bless palms. Blessed palms are a sacramental. They are blessed for a sacred purpose — to raise our mind to praise God and remind us of our faith. Many people will take their palms home and place them behind their crucifixes or behind a picture of Jesus. Some will even weave the palms in crosses, doves and other sacred symbols. We will place them on our religious objects, and possibly forget about them.
Do we take our faith for granted? Are palms and all our religious objects good example of this? Blending into the background of our lives — only necessary when we need help? Like the people in the Scripture this weekend, we first say, Hosanna!, but then quickly find ourselves saying, Crucify Him!
This week we will recall that Jesus Christ gave of himself to save each and every one of us. Those who mocked him were wrong. They thought Jesus couldn’t save himself. What they could not appreciate was that he chose not to save his life. He chose to give his life. He chose a course of humiliation, suffering and death so that the human race would be saved.
The veil in the temple was torn in two when Our Lord expired. It was the curtain that kept people from seeing into the holy of holies. Only the high priest was to see God. Today we need to have the veil torn in two for us — the veil that keeps us from truly seeing God. We truly need to see the gift of Jesus in our lives. We need to let Holy Week truly be a holy week for all of us.
Thus we encourage you to come to confession, Monday through Wednesday; and come and celebrate as well on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. We want to see this church packed with faith-filled and obedient Catholics.
This week is Holy Week. I pray that you will indeed make it a holy and blessed week.
A blessed Holy Week to all,
Rev. André-Joseph LaCasse, O.P., Pastor