April 1, 2012
Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion
Isaiah 50:4-7
hilippians 2:6-11
Mark 14:1-15:47 or 15:1-39

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week, the most sacred time of our liturgical year. We need to be able to reflect on our own lives in the context of what is happening in our liturgical life. We begin with a triumphant procession but we know what is coming. The same crowds that shouted “Hosanna” will later cry out “crucify him.”

Until 1963, when the newly chosen Pope would come from the sacristy of St. Peter’s Basilica, the procession stopped three times and three times the master of ceremonies would say “Sancte Pater, sic transit gloria mundi”! (Holy Father, so passes the glory of the world). These words are a powerful reminder of the transitory nature of not only our lives but of whatever honors we receive. This very small part of a very long papal ceremony echoes the same message as the one we hear on Palm Sunday.

For most of us, life is a series of peaks and valleys. We enjoy the acclaim of others on some rare occasions and suffer their slights some few times during our lives. For the most part, others pay us no mind. And we are sometimes like that in our relationship with the Lord, too. We praise him and give glory when things are good. Stamp our “spiritual foot” when things are not going right. And frequently ignore him altogether (except for Sundays) at other times. Too often we forget that the world will pass away. Today we remember that time when there were palms and a parade, dancing and singing. And then—Jesus is hanging on a cross.

Deutero-Isaiah tells us how we can imitate the Lord in his suffering. The phrase "I will not be put to shame" is powerful. Jesus has given us the courage not to fear death. More--he has given us the dignity not to let it shame us. By dying, Jesus ennobles death and strips it of its power to demoralize and humiliate us. Stripped of his garments and nailed to a cross, Jesus is Lord. Confined to a bed and dependent on others, death does not deprive us of dignity. By the manner of his death, Jesus taught a lesson that can guide us in our approach to those who have, because of their illness or infirmity, been placed in our hands.

St. Paul tells the story of the passion briefly and focuses on that proclamation. Because of Jesus' death, he says, God exalted him "so that at Jesus' name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: 'Jesus Christ is Lord!'"

With other believers, we look toward the celebration of Easter and the reality of resurrection. These are the moments that will assure that we have strength in the future. These are the times for building the Eucharistic faith that makes abandonment temporary. These are the faith filled moments that make an eternal difference.