With Palm Sunday, we arrive at the closing days of Lent and draw near to the Easter Triduum in which we will make present this year the suffering, death and glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can, therefore, ask ourselves how fruitful our Lenten observance has been this year.
At the beginning of Mass, with the blessing and procession with palms, we heard the account of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. We hear that the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. And yet, the mightiest deed, the final struggle between life and death on which hung the fate of all creation, still lay in the near future. Yet still, from what they had seen, they welcomed Jesus as the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Has our Lent brought us, to whom his mightiest deed has been made manifest, to proclaim more clearly, convincingly and openly that Jesus is indeed the Lord? Have we been more willing to be known as his disciples, and are we as steadfast in the midst of opposition and ridicule as the suffering servant of our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah when we are attacked for fidelity to the gospel teaching as it comes to us through the body of Christ, the church?
When sending his disciples to bring him the colt, Jesus instructed them to tell anyone who asked that the Master has need of it. The owners of the colt, when they heard this, let the disciples take their animal to Jesus. We ought examine ourselves to ask whether our prayer, our fasting and our almsgiving of the Lent has made us more readily willing to place our gifts, our treasure our time at the disposal of those who need it. Have we become more generous, more patient, more charitable? We have just now heard the amazing words of Jesus regarding those who were nailing him to the cross: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Has this Lent made us more merciful and forgiving so that we might pray with greater assurance, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”?
Jesus is entering Jerusalem now to see through to its finish the mission for which his Father had sent him; to become obedient even to death, death on a cross. The enormous cost of this obedience leads him to sweat great drops of blood in his fear and anguish. And yet, certain that this is his Father’s will for him, he does what he knows he must do, even to tasting the final bitterness of absence and abandonment by God which is the fruit of our sin. We have, each of us, been called and commissioned by God each in our own vocation. We, too, if we are to be faithful, must often face fear, uncertainty and even suffering in our fidelity. Has this Lent enabled us more willingly to unite these things with the suffering of Jesus and thus, obedient to his words, take up our own cross in order to follow him? All we really need to know is what I ought to do now. If we try too much to control the future, we leave no room for God’s Providence to work. But that takes great trust.
This Holy Week confronts us with the stark reality of the continual contest between life and death, light and darkness, righteousness and sin which is the story of the human race and of each and every one of us. The reading of the Passion, by which we have just been instructed, makes clear that, left to ourselves, we are doomed. So overwhelming is the power of evil, that we could only be saved because the Son of God himself, he who is Light and Life, allowed himself out of love for us to be overwhelmed by the final enemy, death, so that we might be free.
The coming celebrations of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter are not mere commemorations of events which took place long ago. Rather, each year they bring the reality of those events into the present so that we may be partakers now as well as in the future of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is why these feasts, unlike others, move each year. They are no mere memorial, but are a making present of the realities we celebrate here and now. I therefore invite you – in fact I beg you and urge you – to celebrate these coming days of the Easter Triduum with all intention and devotion. They are the feasts of our salvation. For there is no other name by which we may be saved other than that of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, who died for us and for us rose in triumph from death, never to die again.
Abbot Placid Solari, O.S.B.
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