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Pastor's Letter 20220410 - 10 April 2022 - Death and Life

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April 10th, 2022

Passion (Palm) Sunday


Jesus enters triumphantly into Jerusalem

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:  “Death and Life” 

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

Passion (Palm) Sunday and the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday,) are at the center of the Church’s Liturgical Year.  They proclaim the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, and evoke the whole history of salvation.  Recalling the two great sacraments (Baptism and Holy Eucharist,) they call for conversion, and encourage us to bear witness to the Risen Lord.

In today’s extract from the Third Servant Song (Isaiah 50: 4-9,) the mysterious figure of the Servant, is presented firmly as a Teacher Who has to learn before He can communicate his message to others.  This results in persecution of the Servant by the very people to whom He brings comfort—but it is part of His training.  As it pertains to us, it is by suffering that our true “mettle” is tested and proven, and through which we are shown to be faithful.


Paul adopted today’s Second Reading (Philippians 2:6-11,) from earlier literature, and makes Jesus Christ the subject of his poem.  Rather than jealously guard the glory that was His due, as the Son of God, He “emptied Himself,” and was rendered powerless as would a slave, for our redemption.  Jesus wished to share the full weakness of the human condition, except for sin, and was obedient unto death.  From there, He was exulted to unparalleled heights in His resurrection and ascension into Heaven.  Christology, the life of Christ, is not simply to be imitated from afar, but to be studied and used as a model for our own lives.       


We see that today’s reading of Luke’s version of the Passion (Luke 22:14-23:56,) resembles that of Mark, but with its own emphasis. The Devil, who departed from Jesus after the temptations returns, and entered Judas, demanding to “sift” Peter.  Throughout his Gospel Luke never portrays Jesus as distraught, agitated nor forsaken by God.  Instead, we encounter Him serenely in communion with His Father throughout, to the very end; in death, He forgives His executioners and on the cross He brings salvation to a criminal.  Typical of Luke, Jesus pays special attention to women in a society wherein they were downgraded.  The story is that of a disciple who relives the drama of his Master.  Personal attachment to Jesus is expressed by the repeated affirmations of His innocence.  He develops relationships between Jesus and the various characters in the tragedy, especially Judas and Peter.

To understand the Passion message, we have to keep in mind the other half of Luke’s two-volume work, the Acts of the Apostles.  Jesus is accused by the chief priests before the Roman governor, and prepares the way for Paul being brought before the same cast of adversaries.  The innocent Jesus who dies asking forgiveness for His enemies, commending His soul to God the Father, prepares the way for the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who died voicing similar sentiments.      

It’s not surprising, then, to discover Luke stressing the healing and forgiving power of God, mediated through Jesus. As such, we are presented a Passion whose tone is “midway” between the forsaken Jesus of Mark, and the majestic Savior of John.   

Luke turns the question of Jewish authority into an affirmation of the highest Christian title: Messiah, and King.  In between the questions, Jesus declared He would be “seated at the right hand of the power of God.”  We also look forward to joining with our Blessed Lord in eternal life. This is brought to light throughout, as we perceive the forgiving love of God in our lives, which shone through the worst torments that humankind could wreak upon our Blessed Lord.

The Triumph of Love

Listening to the Passion, as we do every year, on Palm Sunday, we should be struck with the contrast between the crowds first hailing Jesus as their Messiah, riding into Jerusalem in triumph, and their shouts of derision by the end of the week.  The cowardice of His followers is there for all to see, as they abandoned Him in His hour of greatest need.  We are taken aback by the wickedness of the religious leaders who plotted His death, and the cruelty of the soldiers who carried out His execution.  And we need to be reminded of these things, because we have a kinship with them!  But that is not the purpose of the Passion reading…we hear too much bad news as it is….

Rather, the emphasis is on character of Jesus, the central character of the story.  We are confronted with the fidelity, the courage and the sheer virtuousness of Jesus.  Against the darkness of Calvary, His goodness shines all the more brightly.  After all, the day of His death is not called, “Bad Friday,” but “Good Friday!”   What makes it good is the love that He embodies.   It is His love for us that we remember during this Holy Week.  

The early Christians saw, in the passion and death of Jesus, the conquest of failure. On the surface, it may seem as if He was defeated.  But His was a victory—the triumph of good over evil; of love over hate; of light over darkness; and of life over death….  With the help of the Scriptures, they gradually came to understand that this was precisely how Jesus prevailed and entered into His glory.  His exaltation cannot be separated from His passion. 

The Passion Story shows how Jesus responded to what was done to Him—by absorbing all the violence; transforming it; and returning it as love and forgiveness.  This was the victory of love over all the powers of destruction.  There was nothing but love in Him.  Even when they nailed his hands and feet, He was loving.  It helps to think about that when we experience difficult moments in our own lives. We should find our consolation and strength in Jesus’ suffering.  Yet, His suffering would have been wasted if He had not endured it with love.  His love saved the world, not His suffering!  

Anyone who pretends to love suffering is considered “crazy!”  Misery and pain are things we would give almost anything to avoid—yet, we are happy to suffer them for someone we love….  Suffering that is merely endured does nothing for our souls—except, perhaps, harden them.  It is the spirit in which we bear our burdens that matters.  Our love gives meaning to our suffering.  Jesus was the Good Shepherd, Who died because He loved His sheep.

By uniting our sorrows to those of Jesus, we can find peace.  There is no loneliness, hunger, oppression, exploitation, torture, imprisonment, violence or threats that have not been suffered by Jesus.  There can be no human beings who are completely alone in their travails, since God, in and through Jesus, has become Emmanuel, “God with us.”  The Passion of Jesus is the ultimate source of courage, strength and hope to all who suffer.  It means we are not alone.

It is important, therefore, to remember that it is not suffering that has redeemed the world, but love.  It is not our anguish that God wants, but our love.  However, as surely as love sometimes brings pain, it also brings great joy.  Christians must not only accept suffering—they must make it “holy.”  Only loves does that….

May God Richly Bless You!


He Died for Us.docx

To view a recording of today's Holy Mass, click here:  https://youtu.be/4X0Q2wRABuQ


Edited by Father Michael
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