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.
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.
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.
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.
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.