Sunday, March 29, 2015
Today we began the most holy week of the Christian year. Palm Sunday commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem astride a colt of a donkey. People shouted Hosannas to the King. Others spread their cloaks on the road as Jesus passed by. In earlier preaching, Jesus had warned people not to call him the Messiah. People expecting a warrior-savior king would not recognize this preacher seated on a donkey. Now instead Jesus accepted the Hosannas and praise. At last many people recognized him as their long-awaited Messiah. Before the end of a week, cries of "Crucify him! We have no king but Caesar," came from another crowd in Jerusalem. That crowd denied Jesus' claim to oneness with the Lord, to be king of the Jews. Most of us know the story of a mock trial, an unjust sentence by a Roman judge, the horrible scourging, mistreatment, crown of thorns, bearing of a heavy cross, and the torture of being nailed to a cross. Jesus bore all that pain, humiliation and scorn to atone for the sins of all mankind. Love kept him on that cross when as God, he could have spared himself all that agony. During this week, slow down and pray about the Passion of Jesus. Take a penetrating look at a crucifix. If you see a street person with an unkempt beard, or one who shuffles in ill-fitting shoes, don't say "What a mess that man has made of himself." Instead think of how Christ lives in that man too. Once I heard a bishop say how his mother had scolded him as his dad drove them through a tough Los Angeles neighborhood. As they passed a very inebriated street person, both the bishop and his dad said, "What a bum!" Instead of agreeing with her husband and son, the mother turned on them and said, "That is a mother's son! Don't call him a bum!" The bishop never forgot his mother's rebuke. She could see what he had forgotten. In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus describes the final judgement as depending on our treatment of others: "I was hungry and you clothed me, thirsty and you gave me to drink...". People asked, "When did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned...", Jesus answered, "you did it to me." Two weeks ago I heard from a postal worker friend who frequents an area with many homeless. "When we know we are going to pass through those streets my wife and I, we pack a lot of sandwiches. When we see a homeless person, we make sure we give them something to eat." Their son Jay noticed that one of his classmates always ate by himself in the school cafeteria. Instead of asking him why he was alone, Jay decided to sit with him. He noticed that his new friend's lunch was very sparse. After that Jay asked his mom to please pack another big sandwich for his lunch. Jay's mom didn't question why he was asking for a bigger lunch. "He must use a lot of energy in track or whatever else he does," she thought. He never told his mom that he was giving the second sandwich away. "We found out that he was giving money to his new friend, not just food." We told him, "You don't need to give him your money. We'll take care of that." "No, I want to do this myself. I want to give what I can," their son answered. Jay learned from Matthew 25, Jesus was hungry and poor in his classmate. Jay is doing what he can to feed Jesus in his fellow teenager. I ask myself, "What am I doing to help Jesus in the Sister next to me, in the person who asks my advice, in the person whom I call or speak with this week?" May your Holy Week be truly a focusing on Jesus, a time of prayer, and serving Jesus in people I live and work with. Let us pray too for all those Christians who suffer their own passion week because of outright persecution. Pray for refugees who have fled persecution that they may be housed, fed and protected. Pray too for a group of young women who will spend the latter part of this Holy Week making a retreat to discern their call in life. Thank you for praying with us and for us. Have a grace-filled Holy Week.