Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

C - Palm Sunday

April 4, 2004
Is 50:4-7 • Phil 2:6-11 • Luke 19:28-40; Luke 22:14-23:56

From a Shallow Victory to a Vital Defeat

The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines met in 1991. After looking at the lights and shadows of the local situation, it declared that the Church in the Philippines was sacramentalized but not evangelized. It said that we had the trappings of religion but that we did not always live out its attitudes and values in our private and public lives. There was nothing very extraordinary in this self diagnosis. The Church in most countries could say the same about itself. Perhaps what was remarkable was that the Philippine Church had the courage to make the statement. It then went on to say that, to remedy the situation, we had to retell the story of Jesus, first to ourselves, in order to tell it with conviction to others. It said that we had to go back to the "dangerous memory" of Jesus.

This perennial struggle between engagement in the peripheral and the avoidance of the nitty-gritty was the core of the life of Jesus. It is also at the core of each person's life and of the life of the Church today. In today's liturgy the struggle is very strikingly brought before us by the two Gospel readings. One is telling us of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the other of the crucifixion of Jesus just five days later.

We will try to take a brief look at the main events, their meaning then and their implications for today. On Palm Sunday Jesus was triumphantly welcomed into Jerusalem. This was a dramatic summing up of the earlier expectations of the people about Jesus. It is superficial and temporary. They wanted a king who would be popular and who would use miraculous powers to eliminate their problems. A few days later at the Last Supper Jesus reveals his true mission. It is a mission to be food that is broken and given for his people. It is a mission to be expressed in service dramatized in his washing of the disciple's feet. This is a mission that is rejected when Jesus is ignominiously crucified on Good Friday. This is the dangerous memory of Jesus. The Jesus who challenges us suffered a decisive but temporary defeat. Jesus' real mission and kingship will be vindicated in his resurrection. It will become a permanent victory and presence to be shared with all people.

The Palm Sunday movement can also be the Church's movement. There is the instinctive urge for temporary triumphs and for seeking manifestations of God's presence in the form of the blessings of health and wealth. But the deeper Christian calling is to service and this is often learned in the school of suffering. It is in going through this suffering, this paschal mystery, that lasting triumph is achieved.

This is also the journey of prayer. When we first pray we are expecting to be successful in the way that we pray. We expect to become good at prayer and feel good about it. We expect magical results when we pray. However, God loves us too much to spoil us with the junk foods that we ask for. Instead, he gives us the strong meat of suffering to chew. We will suffer a wandering mind and a sense of abandonment at times. Perseverance in what seems to be a failure will, however, lead us to a deep sense of peace and joy even in the midst of suffering. According to John Main, every time we meditate we enter into the Paschal mystery. We die to self in order to rise again with Christ.


Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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Sundays into Silence

A Pathway to Life

by Gerry Pierse, cssr
380 pp., PhP 299, U$ 19.95

“The best word I can find to describe this book is integration. In these reflections on the gospel readings for year A, B, and C of the liturgical cycle, Fr. Pierse integrates the richness of the word of God with experiences and stories from life in the community. He shows how through silence, the word can bear fruit in service and sacrament.” (R. J. Cardinal Vidal)

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