Anima Christi" and here it is in English:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from thee.
From the malicious enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me
and bid me come unto thee,
that with thy saints I may praise thee for ever and ever. Amen.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Jesus is our Good Shepherd. If you think about it, we all look to a leader; one who will not leave us when danger threatens. We want someone who is an intimate friend; one who knows us completely and one we know and trust so we can follow with confidence. I think Jesus used this image to help us to see Him as one who cares, one who loves each of us, who calls us by name and goes before us and leads us to green pastures and still water.
A great deal has been written about Jesus as Shepherd, but I am still with the line from the Gospel, "I know mine and mine know me."
Have a restful, prayerful Sunday! Let us pray, too, for all who are trying to discern their vocation in life as this is also Vocation Sunday.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
One of my favorite images of Jesus is that of the Good Shepherd. He gave himself the title. He also said, and this has been one of my favorite lines to pray and ponder for many years: "I know mine and mine know me" and goes on to explain how intimate and perfect this relationship is for it is as the Father knows Jesus and Jesus knows the Father.
It is always vocation Sunday, too. The shepherd calls each of his sheep by name. I am sure Jesus is calling many to follow Him - some as priests, some as religious, some as holy married women, mothers of families, faithful spouses, and some as dedicated, single persons. The important thing is to listen to our Good Shepherd and heed his voice. This will bring us joy!
It is always vocation Sunday, too. The shepherd calls each of his sheep by name. I am sure Jesus is calling many to follow Him - some as priests, some as religious, some as holy married women, mothers of families, faithful spouses, and some as dedicated, single persons. The important thing is to listen to our Good Shepherd and heed his voice. This will bring us joy!
Friday, April 27, 2012
SHOES IN CHURCH
I showered and shaved............... I adjusted my tie.
I got there and sat............... In a pew just in time.
Bowing my head in prayer......... As I closed my eyes..
I saw the shoe of the man next to me..... Touching my own. I sighed.
With plenty of room on either side..... I thought, 'Why must our soles touch?'
It bothered me, his shoe touching mine... But it didn't bother him much.
A prayer began : 'Our Father'............. I thought, 'Thisman with the shoes, has no pride.
They're dusty, worn, and scratched. Even worse, there are holes on the side!'
'Thank You for blessings,' the prayer went on.
The shoe man said............... A quiet 'Amen.'
I tried to focus on the prayer....... But my thoughts were on his shoes again.
Aren't we supposed to look our best. When walking through that door?
'Well, this certainly isn't it,' I thought, Glancing toward the floor..
Then the prayer was ended........... And the songs of praise began.
The shoe man was certainly loud..... Sounding proud as he sang.
His voice lifted the rafters........ His hands were raised high.
The Lord could surely hear. The shoe man's voice from the sky.
It was time for the offering..... And what I threw in was steep.
I watched as the shoe man reached.... Into his pockets so deep.
I saw what was pulled out............ What the shoe man put in.
Then I heard a soft 'clink' . As when silver hits tin.
The sermon really bored me............ To tears, and that's no lie.
It was the same for the shoe man.... For tears fell from his eyes.
At the end of the service...... As is the custom here.
We must greet new visitors, And show them all good cheer.
But I felt moved somehow............. And wanted to meet the shoe man.
So after the closing prayer......... I reached over and shook his hand.
He was old and his skin was dark.... And his hair was truly a mess.
But I thanked him for coming......... For being our guest.
He said, 'My names' Charlie............. I'm glad to meet you, my friend.'
There were tears in his eyes........ But he had a large, wide grin.
'Let me explain,' he said.......... Wiping tears from his eyes.
'I've been coming here for months.... And you're the first to say 'Hi.''
'I know that my appearance............'Is not like all the rest.
'But I really do try.................'To always look my best.'
'I always clean and polish my shoes..Before my very long walk.
'But by the time I get here..........'They're dirty and dusty, like chalk.'
My heart filled with pain.......... And I swallowed to hide my tears.
As he continued to apologize........... For daring to sit so near
He said, 'When I get here..............'I know I must look a sight.
'But I thought if I could touch you..Then maybe our souls might unite.'
I was silent for a moment........... Knowing whatever was said
Would pale in comparison... I spoke from my heart, not my head.
'Oh, you've touched me,' I said......'And taught me, in part;
'That the best of any man...............'Is what is found in his heart.'
The rest, I thought,..................... This shoe man will never know.
Like just how thankful I really am... That his dirty old shoe touched my soul
You are special to me and you have made a difference in my life.
I respect you, and truly cherish you.
Send this to your friends,
No matter how often you talk,
Or how close you are,
And send it to the person who sent it to you.
Let old friends know you haven't forgotten them, and tell new friends you never will..
Remember, everyone needs a friend..
Someday you might feel like you have no friends at all.
Just remember this e-mail and take comfort in knowing that
Someone out there cares about you.....
And always will.
Live each day as your last, it could be!!!!! Amen
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Today I want to share something from Mother Stuart that I copied from another Religious of the Sacred Heart last summer and think I have not put it into my blog. It is called "Our Lady, Our Joy":
"Our Lady's joy should be ours because she gives us joy itself--God, her Divine Son. But she is our joy, too, in herself; the thought of Our Lady simply resting in our minds gives steadiness to our joy. We need not even think about her, just think of her!
Joy is a power in our spiritual life. If we "keep the words" which the Church gives us to sing as Our Lady did "pondering them in our hearts" we shall get into the spirit of them, we shall have the secret joy and hope, within us that nothing can take away, and we must bear in mind that joy in the spiritual life is strength.
Joy is virtue, it is the index of our faith and the measure of our endurance, and the means by which things impossible to us by nature become possible by grace."
That gives us much to reflect upon as we go about giving joy to others.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Today I did many ordinary tasks and errands and was aware that God was with me at each stop, while driving from one place to the next, and even while I was putting away the groceries. The truth is that God is always with me, but I am so unconscious so often that I can go through the day without stopping to be aware of His Presence. I am just grateful that He is there when I turn to Him.
To go back to the quotes about questions from the booklet "Live the Questions Now" published by the LCWR, here is one from James Baldwin:
"The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers."
The Scripture quote is "How do your eyes come to be open?" John 9:10
Tom Roberts said this is in one of the latest articles and I think it worth repeating here:
"Through the long arc of their history in the United States, it is a simple fact that women religious built the church. We wouldn't have the Catholic school system without them. We wouldn't have a hospital system without them. We wouldn't today have a Catholic presence in many of the worst parts of our cities without them. We wouldn't have ministry to the displaced, unwanted and hurting without them. In many cases we wouldn't have any ministries or education programs in our parishes and dioceses without them. And in some of the priest-poor sections of the country, we wouldn't have parishes without them."
I think more people are going to start thinking about the same questions that the Vatican wants to stop women religious from even discussing; it may take many years to change the way Rome sees things, but we have changed about other things so I think the Holy Spirit is very present in the work of women religious.
I seem to have been given a new form for this blog and do not know how it will look when I publish it but change is part of life! Let us rejoice and be glad for the Lord is truly risen!
Monday, April 23, 2012
The quote today is from Thomas Merton:
"Questions cannot go unanswered unless they first by asked. And there is a far worse anxiety, a far worse insecurity, which comes from being afraid to ask the right questions--because they might turn out to have no answer. One of the moral diseases we communicate to one another in society comes from huddling together in the pale light of an insufficient answer to a question we are afraid to ask."
The Scripture quote is from Luke 18:27 "All things are possible."
We must not be afraid to ask the questions. This is true at every moment of our lives. Nothing ventured, nothing gained was one of the sayings of my Dad. He encouraged our questions and I do think we are at a point in time when many of us now have more questions than answers, but we must keep asking the questions.
The Archdiocese of Miami is going to have a synod so that the Archbishop can listen to the concerns of the people. When I came to Miami in 1986, the archdiocese was engaged in the synod process; with a recent doctorate in theology, I ended up the Chair of the Secretariat of Theology with a group of wonderful but busy priests. I knew so little but was to go around and offer theological help to all the other groups in the Synod. It was a humbling experience but what I remember was a great group of lay people all engaged in trying to live the faith, to increase their faith, and with great questions about how they could be more active in their own parishes. I began the Center of Spirituality with the training program for spiritual directors as a direct result of the the questions and desires of the laity at the Synod in 1986. I have great hopes for this new synod with our new Archbishop.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Ignatius was one of the saints that loved to go out and look at the stars at night. It is inspiring to do this still and I wonder why I do not do it more often. I love to do it when I am staying outside of a city, but even in Miami there are beautiful nights for star gazing and this leads to prayer.
I seldom ask pray for any specific intention in this blog, but my sister had a knee operation on March 26 and I want her to get better as soon as possible. The more I hear from others who have had this operation, the more I realize that it is not easy to get back to being able to do everything that one normally did without thinking about it. I also had a call this morning from a cousin asking prayers for her eyes. She was on the way to a clinic for some sort of intervention but has been losing her sight. I was touched that she called to ask for prayer. Sometimes I believe that God waits for us to pray for specific things.
Although I am still upset about the "reform" the Vatican is seemingly trying to impose on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, I am still using the latest booklet: "Live the Questions Now". I just find the quotes provoke reflection. Here is another from Alice Walker:
"Is there anything more painful than realizing you did not have the right question to ask at the only time on earth you would have the opportunity?"
The Scripture quote is from Mark 9:23: "If you can?" said Jesus. Everything is possible for one who believes."
I hope this calls forth reflection. I am reminded of Job who finally kept silence when God began asking him questions!
Friday, April 20, 2012
Here is a quote from the booklet "Live the Questions Now" published by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
"Dreams are today's answers to tomorrow's questions." Edgar Cayce
The Scripture quote is: "I will pour or my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old ones will dream dreams your young will see visions." Joel 2:28
I am a daydreamer from early childhood. I have an active imagination and daydreaming is a great temptation; it is also a gift and I can envision things before they even exist and therefore work to make them happen. I find this gift a real blessing in working with all kinds of people and situations. I think it is important to be in touch with what we dream about both during the day and the night. I am one who seldom remembers a night dream, so have learned to process my day-dreaming the same way you would work with a dream that came when you were asleep. It is amazing how God still speaks to us through our dreams.
I am off for my monthly meeting up in North Hollywood; the group began about twenty-five years ago as a supervision group as we were all doing spiritual direction; it has evolved into a group of intimate friends who are willing to pray and share together. I think we are really doing some group spiritual direction now, although there is still room for supervision when someone wants to present. I am just grateful that I am able to share with others monthly and know that these wonderful women open my horizons and deepen my own faith and hope.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
I just heard that the Vatican is investigating and actually has appointed high-ranking officials to "reform" the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. This is upsetting to say the least. This is a group that looks to see how Jesus would act today.
I am going to pray about this before I write more. I also am going to look up a book that I had not heard about until today when a group has formed at the University to help deepen spirituality throughout the curriculum. The book is Charlene Spretnak’s Relational Reality, That's all for today as I am off to the University for Mass, Centering Prayer, and Faith-Sharing--all so life-giving for me!
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Last night someone came for spiritual direction and gave me this quote from Father Jean Pierre de Caussade. I want to share it with you as I am really certain from my own experience that Jesus goes about during these forty days before the Ascension consoling us in many ways. Here is the quote:
"Faith sees the work of divine action in everything. It sees that Jesus Christ lives in all things, extending his influence over the centuries so that the briefest moment and the tiniest atom contain a portion of that hidden life and its mysterious work. Jesus Christ, after his resurrection, surprised the disciples when he appeared before them in disguise... the same Jesus still lives and works among us, still surprises...there is no moment when God is not manifest...everything that happens to us, in us, and through us, embraces and conceals God's divine but veiled purpose...if we could pierce that veil and if we were vigilant and attentive, God would unceasingly reveal himself to us and we would rejoice in his works... and we would say, 'It is the Lord.'"
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
I used a quote yesterday from Mother Stuart in preparing a birthday prayer for the community as we usually have a special prayer and then often go out to dinner. Here is the quote, one that I often return to and thought I would share with you today:
“Yes, do be a saint; why not? What else is worth living for, caring about; and every little thing in the day may help you on towards it, if you will look at it on the right side as coming to you form our dearest God, who is so in with us in our daily troubles and duties, for whom nothing is too great or too small, who is so understanding and loving to all our moods and aches and longings, and asks only one thing, that we should take our worries to Him to be comforted, and our joys to be blessed, and our gulps of trouble to be quieted down; if you have Him in the details of your life with you, all is well, and you can manage anything; the one thing to avoid is thinking hard and hateful and unworthy thoughts of Him and misunderstanding Him. So love Him and trust Him all you can, and let nothing take you away from the keep of that strong castle, God the refuge of His people.”
Monday, April 16, 2012
The paschal Way of Light (Via Lucis) is a new religious practice proper to the post-Easter liturgical period. There are fourteen stations and it makes sense to celebrate them after having used the devotion of the Way of the Cross during the season of Lent.
Here are the Stations and you can do your own reflecting on each.
Jesus rises from the dead.
The disciples find the empty tomb.
Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene.
Jesus walks with the disciples to Emmaus.
Jesus reveals himself in the breaking of the bread.
Jesus appears to the Disciples.
Jesus confers on his disciples the power to forgive sins.
Jesus confirms Thomas in faith.
Jesus appears to his disciples on the shore of Lake Galilee.
Jesus confers primacy on Peter.
Jesus entrusts his disciples with a universal mission.
Jesus ascends into heaven.
Mary and the disciples await the coming of the Holy Spirit's Pentecost.
Jesus sends the Spirit promised by the Father to his disciples.
These fourteen stations are from Father Richard Veras who published them in this month's Magnificat.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
What doubts will you, with Thomas, bring to the Lord this Sunday?
What keeps you from believing?
What kind of proof do you look for? wait for?
What needs affirmation and confirmation
in your believer's mind and heart?
Jesus told us that we are blessed because we believe without seeing. Faith is such a gift and how grateful I am that I have always been surrounded by people of faith.
I love the way Jesus comes on Easter night and greets all with "Peace be to you." And He gives them the Holy Spirit and the wonderful gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and never mentions that they had abandoned Him. Then he comes back the next Sunday so that Thomas can see His wounds and He tells Thomas to go ahead and put his finger into his wounds and his hand into the wound in his side. "My Lord and My God!" is the only response Thomas can make and how we have repeated those words daily at the consecration of the Mass for so many years, yet we cannot really understand what a mystery it is for us to be able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Here is a quote I love from Alice Walker:
"I must love the questions themselves as Rilke said the locked rooms full of treasure to which my blind and groping key does not yet fit.
and await the answers as unsealed letters mailed with dubious intent and written in a very foreign tongue."
And the Scripture question is Mary's "But how can this come about?"
I have an image of a locked room full of treasure as I ask myself some of the questions that come to mind while pondering Delio's book, "The Emergent Christ" and also her "Christ in Evolution". Both books have been feeding my soul but also stirring up questions about my own part in Christ's evolutionary project of uniting all in the Cosmic Christ. I have a deep relationship with Jesus and He is drawing me into a much bigger kind of universal relationship with all in the Body of Christ. I am just trying to love the questions at this point!
In the meantime, I am loving the Easter season and hope you are, too.
Friday, April 13, 2012
"Never be satisfied with the first answer or with the easy one. The moment I think I have it s often the moment I most need to keep digging. Answers, it seems to me, are always provisional. It is the questions that keep moving me forward in the unknown--which is where the good stuff is to be found."
Now, my first question today is what do you think of this quote? I guess I like the idea that the questions keep moving us forward; I think this is true. I am not sure about the first part of the quote as sometimes the first answer may be the right answer. After all, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. I guess, though, that the difficult questions need to be pondered and seldom have an easy answer.
The Scripture quote is from Jeremiah: 6:16
"Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."
I leave this for your reflection as I am off to the gym. We had a great reflection group last night, mostly on the fourth week of the Spiritual Exercises but also on our own experience of God and how Jesus appears in our own lives!!
Thursday, April 12, 2012
One of the most interesting studies I did for myself once was to go through the Gospels and study all the questions that Jesus asks. You will find over a hundred and then think about the circumstances, the place and the people, when praying over the question. Perhaps that little project made me aware of how often Jesus is asking me a question right now! And Jesus waits for me to answer.
Yesterday I was struck by the conversation Jesus has with the two disciples on the road and how he begins by asking them a couple of questions and then they pour out all that is in their hearts. I think that happens to us in prayer, too. Then, sometimes Jesus and I just sit there in silence, but sometimes I feel not only loved and understood, but Jesus seems to be talking to me.
I am off to the University but ask you all to pray for my Provincial whose mother died on Easter Tuesday. Her name was Martha and she had a large family with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The funeral is tomorrow. My father died many years ago on Easter Monday so this is also a time of remembering for me.
Jesus asks good questions; he also is willing to listen to us when we answer!
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
The picture is of a calm moment on Vero Beach; I just answered an e-mail from a friend in Vero so thought of putting this picture in the blog. I do think a picture to look at helps as much as anything I suggest for reflection.
Here is the quote for today from "Live the Questions Now":
"Asking the proper questions is the central action of transformation. Questions are the key that causes the secret doors of the psyche to swing open."--Clarissa Pinkola Estes
The Scripture quote is from Matthew 13:51:
"Have you understood all these things? Jesus asked.
I think the quote from Clarissa (an author not known to me) is rather thought provoking. The reflection on this in the booklet says that "Questions play a key role in our growth. We learn who we are by asking questions; we learn our stance, our values, and our philosophy of life....
Here is a line from one of Susan Boyle's songs to think about:
"Though I may not know the answer I can finally say I'm free and if the question led me here then I am who I was born to be."
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
There is a new booklet published by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious called Live the Questions Now that has a reflection for each day beginning on my birthday, May 31, which is also the Feast of the Visitation. The reflections are written by different women religious in leadership today. What I want to share with you are some of the quotations as each reflection has a quote from a well-known writer and then a very short, often one line from Scripture. I think the quotes are worth sharing with you so here is the first from Rainer Maria Rilke:
"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves...Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you will not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now."
The scripture line is from 1 Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient.
This is the week we are singing double alleluias and the miracle of my hearing the homily happened again on Easter Monday. It was the same Pastor and he gave a very short and to the point homily, the kind I can remember. He told us that we are people of the Resurrection; we know we are loved by God and we go forth to give the Good News with joy!
I am caught up in the idea of the Cosmic Christ in whom we "live and move and have our being." I love the idea that everything I do is helping to build up the body of Christ and raise the level of love in the world - at least if I am acting out of love. Anyway, let us live the questions and know that theology today is based a great deal on our experience of God as well as Scripture and Tradition.
Monday, April 9, 2012
Today, Easter Monday, I am filled with joy because Jesus is risen and continues to go around giving consolation to each of us during these forty days as he did when on earth. The homily yesterday stressed how much we are loved and loved in a unique way as each of us is different and unique. However, we are all daughters and sons of God, created in his image and likeness to receive his love and to give it. I am especially grateful for the twenty years in Chile where I experienced in so many different ways the immense love of God.
Chile now has an international novitiate and we must pray for the novices and for all those who are helping to form them. I also am praying for all our young nuns in Rome who are preparing for their final profession.
I am grateful for the years I worked in formation in Chile, the years on the Mission Team there, the many directed retreats I was able to give to our Religious and to the tremendous experience of being able to help so many realize how much we are loved by God at every moment.
It is a day to rejoice and to look back and thank for the many graces we have each received.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Jesus is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!
May we all enter into His joy today!! Christ is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Here is the end of Pope Benedict XVI's homily for the Easter vigil:
Dear friends, as I conclude, I would like to add one more thought about light and illumination. On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great light. Secondly, we should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves. “Whoever is close to me is close to the fire,” as Jesus is reported by Origen to have said. And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which God’s warmth and goodness reach down to us.
The great hymn of the Exsultet, which the deacon sings at the beginning of the Easter liturgy, points us quite gently towards a further aspect. It reminds us that this object, the candle, has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the candle also in some sense contains a silent reference to the Church. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whose raison d’être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world.
Let us pray to the Lord at this time that he may grant us to experience the joy of his light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world (cf. LG 1). Amen
Friday, April 6, 2012
Thursday, April 5, 2012
I am doing the community prayer this evening before dinner and thought I might share it with you - I am using excerpts on the Eucharist from the Constitutions of the Sacred Heart as you know we are praying and deepening our reflection on them as this is the 25th anniversary of their approval by the Vatican after all Religious Orders were asked to revise and update their Constitutions. Having said all this, I cannot find the prayer for Holy Thursday in my files! I guess the Lord really wants me to keep silence and not spend time at the computer during these Holy Days so I will just be united in prayer and back blogging on Easter Sunday!
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
I am going to be silent on this blog for a few days; Holy Week is too full for me to add anything to what each is reflecting on during these days. I also have put on this blog excellent resources both under the prayer resources and under my chosen blogs - sometimes I just need to take the time to be and not write. I am sure you will understand and I shall be back by Easter. I wish you all a holy Holy Week and a very Happy Easter filled with His Joy!!
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
I love to watch dophins jumping around and they seem to enjoy life and also want to look out for each other. People pay money here in Florida to go swim with the dolphins and they say they are very touching, gentle, and caring, especially when it is someone expecting a baby. How do they know? They seem to have certain instincts that just tell them when someone needs more love and attention; I guess that is something we all need to develop!
To continue with the spirituality found in reflecting on some parts of the Constitutions of the Society of the Sacred Heart- from Our Service in the Church: We had reflected on: We are sent by the Church
to communicate the love of the Heart of Jesus.
In Him all find their true growth as persons and now we realize this in our service of education:
Saint Madeleine Sophie chose to express this conviction
through the service of education, especially of the young.
Faithful to her inspiration, and, like her, open to new situations,
we make her desire our own:
- that people become ever more aware of truth, of love
and of freedom
- that they discover the significance of their lives, and devote themselves to others
- that they take part creatively in the common effort to
transform the world
- that they be enabled to encounter the love of Jesus
- that they let their lives be shaped by an active faith.
I guess the important thing is to live this myself, if I am to help others. I think that this has influenced my teaching ministry especially at the University where I have spent the last 25 years of my life.
Monday, April 2, 2012
I thought this last paragraph worth copying here in my blog for us as we enter into Holy Week: I guess I seem to have copied the whole but you could skip to the last part. Unless you have time for all, just go to the bold part.
Sunday, April 01, 2012
"Who Is Jesus For Us?"
HOMILY OF POPE BENEDICT XVI
PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION
ST PETER'S SQUARE
1 APRIL 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Palm Sunday is the great doorway leading into Holy Week, the week when the Lord Jesus makes his way towards the culmination of his earthly existence. He goes up to Jerusalem in order to fulfil the Scriptures and to be nailed to the wood of the Cross, the throne from which he will reign for ever, drawing to himself humanity of every age and offering to all the gift of redemption. We know from the Gospels that Jesus had set out towards Jerusalem in company with the Twelve, and that little by little a growing crowd of pilgrims had joined them. Saint Mark tells us that as they were leaving Jericho, there was a "great multitude" following Jesus (cf. 10:46).
On the final stage of the journey, a particular event stands out, one which heightens the sense of expectation of what is about to unfold and focuses attention even more sharply upon Jesus. Along the way, as they were leaving Jericho, a blind man was sitting begging, Bartimaeus by name. As soon as he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing, he began to cry out: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Mk 10:47). People tried to silence him, but to no avail; until Jesus had them call him over and invited him to approach. "What do you want me to do for you?", he asked. And the reply: "Master, let me receive my sight" (v. 51). Jesus said: "Go your way, your faith has made you well." Bartimaeus regained his sight and began to follow Jesus along the way (cf. v. 52). And so it was that, after this miraculous sign, accompanied by the cry "Son of David", a tremor of Messianic hope spread through the crowd, causing many of them to ask: this Jesus, going ahead of us towards Jerusalem, could he be the Messiah, the new David? And as he was about to enter the Holy City, had the moment come when God would finally restore the Davidic kingdom?
The preparations made by Jesus, with the help of his disciples, serve to increase this hope. As we heard in today’s Gospel (cf. Mk 11:1-10), Jesus arrives in Jerusalem from Bethphage and the Mount of Olives, that is, the route by which the Messiah was supposed to come. From there, he sent two disciples ahead of him, telling them to bring him a young donkey that they would find along the way. They did indeed find the donkey, they untied it and brought it to Jesus. At this point, the spirits of the disciples and of the other pilgrims were swept up with excitement: they took their coats and placed them on the colt; others spread them out on the street in Jesus’ path as he approached, riding on the donkey. Then they cut branches from the trees and began to shout phrases from Psalm 118, ancient pilgrim blessings, which in that setting took on the character of messianic proclamation: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!" (v. 9-10). This festive acclamation, reported by all four evangelists, is a cry of blessing, a hymn of exultation: it expresses the unanimous conviction that, in Jesus, God has visited his people and the longed-for Messiah has finally come. And everyone is there, growing in expectation of the work that Christ will accomplish once he has entered the city.
But what is the content, the inner resonance of this cry of jubilation? The answer is found throughout the Scripture, which reminds us that the Messiah fulfills the promise of God’s blessing, God’s original promise to Abraham, father of all believers: "I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you ... and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves" (Gen 12:2-3). It is the promise that Israel had always kept alive in prayer, especially the prayer of the Psalms. Hence he whom the crowd acclaims as the blessed one is also he in whom the whole of humanity will be blessed. Thus, in the light of Christ, humanity sees itself profoundly united and, as it were, enfolded within the cloak of divine blessing, a blessing that permeates, sustains, redeems and sanctifies all things.
Here we find the first great message that today’s feast brings us: the invitation to adopt a proper outlook upon all humanity, on the peoples who make up the world, on its different cultures and civilizations. The look that the believer receives from Christ is a look of blessing: a wise and loving look, capable of grasping the world’s beauty and having compassion on its fragility. Shining through this look is God’s own look upon those he loves and upon Creation, the work of his hands. We read in the Book of Wisdom: "But thou art merciful to all, for thou canst do all things, and thou dost overlook men’s sins, that they may repent. For thou lovest all things that exist and hast loathing for none of the things which thou hast made ... thou sparest all things, for they are thine, O Lord who lovest the living" (11:23-24, 26).
Let us return to today’s Gospel passage and ask ourselves: what is really happening in the hearts of those who acclaim Christ as King of Israel? Clearly, they had their own idea of the Messiah, an idea of how the long-awaited King promised by the prophets should act. Not by chance, a few days later, instead of acclaiming Jesus, the Jerusalem crowd will cry out to Pilate: "Crucify him!", while the disciples, together with others who had seen him and listened to him, will be struck dumb and will disperse. The majority, in fact, was disappointed by the way Jesus chose to present himself as Messiah and King of Israel. This is the heart of today’s feast, for us too. Who is Jesus of Nazareth for us? What idea do we have of the Messiah, what idea do we have of God? It is a crucial question, one we cannot avoid, not least because during this very week we are called to follow our King who chooses the Cross as his throne. We are called to follow a Messiah who promises us, not a facile earthly happiness, but the happiness of heaven, divine beatitude. So we must ask ourselves: what are our true expectations? What are our deepest desires, with which we have come here today to celebrate Palm Sunday and to begin our celebration of Holy Week?
Dear young people, present here today, this, in a particular way, is your Day, wherever the Church is present throughout the world. So I greet you with great affection! May Palm Sunday be a day of decision for you, the decision to say yes to the Lord and to follow him all the way, the decision to make his Passover, his death and resurrection, the very focus of your Christian lives. It is the decision that leads to true joy, as I reminded you in this year’s World Youth Day Message – "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil 4:4). So it was for Saint Clare of Assisi when, on Palm Sunday 800 years ago, inspired by the example of Saint Francis and his first companions, she left her father’s house to consecrate herself totally to the Lord. She was eighteen years old and she had the courage of faith and love to decide for Christ, finding in him true joy and peace.
Dear brothers and sisters, may these days call forth two sentiments in particular: praise, after the example of those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with their "Hosanna!", and thanksgiving, because in this Holy Week the Lord Jesus will renew the greatest gift we could possibly imagine: he will give us his life, his body and his blood, his love. But we must respond worthily to so great a gift, that is to say, with the gift of ourselves, our time, our prayer, our entering into a profound communion of love with Christ who suffered, died and rose for us. The early Church Fathers saw a symbol of all this in the gesture of the people who followed Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem, the gesture of spreading out their coats before the Lord. Before Christ – the Fathers said – we must spread out our lives, ourselves, in an attitude of gratitude and adoration. As we conclude, let us listen once again to the words of one of these early Fathers, Saint Andrew, Bishop of Crete: "So it is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours. But we have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, or with the whole Christ ... so let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet ... let us offer not palm branches but the prizes of victory to the conqueror of death. Today let us too give voice with the children to that sacred chant, as we wave the spiritual branches of our soul: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel’" (PG 97, 994). Amen!
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Today we celebrate the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem with the people all welcoming and praising Jesus. Soon some of this same crowd will be stirred up to call out "Crucify him!" They will choose a criminal to be released instead of Jesus who was innocent of crime. It is a day to reflect on our own faith and fortitude as well as a day to enter into the feelings of Jesus as He begins this week that we now call "Holy"!