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Pastor's Letter 20210328 - 28 March 2021 - Death and Life

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March 28th, 2021

Palm Sunday


A Message from Father †Michael

Today’s Theme:   “Death and Life”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

Mark’s Gospel was the first written, of which we may be certain.   Many scholars have regarded it as the simplest, most factual and the least theological. Like the other evangelists, he gleaned facts from his particular sources and existing traditions and shaped them according to his own unique faith, interests and insights, into a Christological statement.  His are no less meaningful than those of Matthew, Luke, or even John.  Central to his concerns and interests were the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  For this reason, Mark and the other evangelists formulated their passion narratives first.  Secondary, and supplemental to the passion accounts, was Jesus’ ministry and His early life.  

The familiar scene on Palm Sunday is the beginning of the final act in Jesus’ life’s drama (Mark 14:1-15:47.)   In his account of the Passion, Mark stresses the crude trial and shocking details of Jesus’ suffering:  He recorded that Jesus died in total isolation, deserted by His disciples; was taunted by His enemies; was derided by those who hung with him; and, worst of all, was abandoned by His Father. The rending of the curtain of the Temple signifies that the privilege of Israel had ended; thereafter access to the divine Presence was open to all.  This brings us to the question that dominated †Mark’s Gospel, “Who, then, is This?” as regards Jesus.  It was answered by the words of the centurion: “Truly, this Man was the Son of God.”

The Meaning of the Passion for Jesus

During the three years of His public ministry, Jesus went from village to village doing “good,” teaching and healing.  Everywhere He went He was surrounded by crowds of people who listened to Him and sought favors from Him.  It had been an incredibly full and active period, yet, all the while, He was in control.  He came and went, more or less, as He pleased. But when He was handed over to His enemies in the garden of Gethsemane (through the agency of one His own, Judas Iscariot,) all this came to an end.  From then on, He began to undergo suffering—the point at which the Passion began.  Things were now done to Him, rather than by Him.

We read that He was arrested, put in prison, led before the High Priest, Caiphas, Herod and Pontius Pilate, to be interrogated, scourged, crowned with thorns, given a cross to carry, stripped, nailed to a cross, mocked…and finally He died.  Jesus fulfilled His mission not only by what He said, but also, and more especially, by what was done to Him—by His Passion. We have to be very clear about one thing: The Father didn’t “throw Him to the wolves.”  Jesus voluntarily gave His life when He died.  

Much of our lives are determined by what is done to us, rather than by what we do: In a very real sense, this is our passion….  If we genuinely accept responsibility for our passion, as well as for our actions, they will lead us to salvation.

It’s important to realize the extent to which our lives are affected by forces outside ourselves.  As children, we are “at the mercy” of adults.  Moving through life, we encounter “fate”—including betrayal, bad-luck, illness of one kind or another, loss of friendships, failure in relationships, disappointments with spouses and our children, death of our loved ones, the drudgery of the workplace, and so on.  

Of course, there are joyful moments and periods of peace, too.  In reality, many experiences that are all part of being human are outside our control.  We do, however, have a choice as to how we respond to what life “throws” at us—the upshot of which can “make us” or “break us.”  

Jesus, Himself, survived all of His life’s experiences, emerging from them strong, pure and “good.”  One wonders how we would have fared if loss, crisis or the depredations of time were to take away our trappings of success, self-importance and even our personalities….

The Passion Story shows us how Jesus responded to what was done to Him.  He absorbed all the violence, transforming it and returning it as love and forgiveness.  This is the victory of love over all the powers of destruction.  There was nothing but love left in Him.  Even when He was nailed to the cross, He was loving.  We should focus on Jesus’ staunch resilience whenever we encounter difficult moments in our lives.

He Bore Our Sins

Throughout November, the cities and towns of our country are littered with leaves from all the trees, and lie scattered on yards and streets.  Most people expect the owners of each property will be responsible for gather its own leaves, perhaps into large plastic bags, for removal by garbage collectors.  Let’s use the metaphor of the leaves to illustrate our sins.  

Many people don’t bother to clean their yards of the leaves that litter their lawns, flower beds and driveways. They see them begin to decay and perhaps foul the air with stench. Nonetheless, they walk by them every day, treating them as if they did not exist.  For some people, there is no such thing as “sin,” perhaps like Herod, in the Passion Story.  

Other people sweep the leaves of their lawns and driveways out into the streets.  There, they become an unsightly mess and may even create hazards for drivers and pedestrians, alike.   Their attitude seems to be: “Let someone else clean up that mess!”  This reminds us of those who blame others for their sins.  Pilate, the soldiers and the crowd who taunted Jesus would fit into this category.  

But a few people dutifully gather their fallen leaves from their property, and even the sidewalks and streets around them.  They routinely do this quietly, without complaining.  They remind us, somewhat, of Christ, Who died for our sins.  What made Christ unique was the fact that He alone was sinless.

Holy Week is not a time to hide behind other people.  If we acknowledge our sins, we have nothing to fear, for Christ came to take them away. Then we can try to feel some responsibility for the sins of our neighbors and of the world in general.  Each of us is part of the “mainland of humanity.”  

May God Richly Bless You!

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does….   Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining—they simply shine!”

~~Dwight L. Moody~~

To View a live stream of today's Holy Mass, click here: https://youtu.be/VDAeTC8Zbaw

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.docx 

Edited by Father Michael
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