Palm Sunday C


 Palm Sunday C from Jaimelito Gealan

“Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.”

Constantine the Great was the first Christian Roman emperor. His father Constantius I who succeeded Diocletian as emperor in 305 A.D. was a pagan with a soft heart for Christians. When he ascended the throne, he discovered that many Christians held important jobs in the government and in the court.  So he issued an executive order to all those Christians: “Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.” The great majority of Christians gave up their jobs rather than disowning Christ. Only a few cowards gave up their religion rather than lose their jobs. The emperor was pleased with the majority who showed the courage of their convictions and gave their jobs back to them saying: "If you will not be true to your God you will not be true to me either.” Today we join the Palm Sunday crowd in spirit to declare our loyalty to Christ and fidelity to his teachings by actively participating in the Palm Sunday liturgy. As we carry the palm leaves to our homes, we are declaring our choice to accept Jesus as the king and ruler of our lives and our families. Let us express our gratitude to Jesus for redeeming us by his suffering and death, through active participation in the Holy Week liturgy and reconciliation with God and His Church, repenting of our sins and receiving God's pardon and forgiveness from Jesus through his Church.  

palm sunday 1
Michel de Verteuil
General Comments

The Palm Sunday procession is a living lesson in liturgy. By inviting us to imitate the actions of Jesus entering Jerusalem and the crowd welcoming him, the Church wants us to experience that the story is still being lived today. Whenever people of faith decide to confront evil at its source, and do so with inner freedom, remaining faithful to their values, Jesus is once more entering Jerusalem.
We have the same experience by meditating on the gospel texts and recognizing ourselves in them.
Each of the gospels tells the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in a distinctive way. In St Luke’s account, which we read this year, there is first of all the very significant verse 28, which describes Jesus “going on ahead of his disciples.”
The events described in verses 29 to 34 are found in all the synoptic accounts, a sign that the early Church found them highly symbolical. Some take the story as evidence of Jesus’ supernatural powers, but it could merely be evidence of his self-confidence as he faces his great moment of truth, a mark of true leadership.
In St Luke’s account, it is the disciples themselves, entering alongside Jesus, who are moved to excitement at this moment.
A small detail, but clearly significant for St Luke: the disciples “helped Jesus on to the colt.”
The people do not wave palm branches in St Luke’s account, but their gesture of spreading their cloaks in the road before Jesus is both a sign of their wild excitement and their welcoming him as a king.
The cry of the people in verse 38 echoes the song of the angels at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:14).
The brief dialogue in verses 39-40 can be interpreted in different ways. The Pharisees in question may have been followers of Jesus who were afraid of confrontation and wanted to protect Jesus. Or they may have represented the first assault of the opposition to Jesus. In either case his answer expresses his inner freedom very dramatically.
Scripture reflection

Lord, there comes a time in the lives of all of us when we, like Jesus,
must enter into a radical confrontation:
– those in authority have been abusing their power;
– we finally recognise that we need help to overcome an addiction;
– some members of our community have betrayed the cause and must be excluded;
– we need to give up our comfortable situation and move into something new.
At these moments, give us
– and especially those of us whom you have called to be leaders in our communities –
a share in the inner freedom of Jesus,
so that like him we can go on ahead of the rest, as we go up to our Jerusalem.walking-with-jesus1
Help us like Jesus to make our arrangements confident that they will come to pass,
and to allow ourselves to be put in a position of authority.
Help us to be so confident of our cause
that if someone told us to check our followers
we would know that if they kept silence, the stones would cry out.
Lord, we thank you for glorious moments of grace
– we found a friend whom we felt we could trust perfectly;
– we enjoyed intimacy with our spouse;
– one of our children did us proud;
– a new social movement arose in our country.
We were like the disciples when Jesus approached the downward slope of the Mount of Olives:
we joyfully began to praise you at the top of our voices for the miracle which we had seen.
We cried out, ”Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
We glorified you in the highest heavens.
Lord, it is strange how when the moment of grace comes,
everything seems to fall into place very naturally.
If we need something, we find as the disciples did on the first Palm Sunday,
that all we need say is, “The Master needs it,” and immediately all obstacles are removed.
Lord, we pray that as a Church we may not betray our young people.
Often we lack the courage of our convictions,
are too anxious to please them, and do not go ahead of them.
But when young people today meet leaders who challenge them, they joyfully praise God,
they are ready to spread their cloaks in the road before them,
and welcome them as kings who come in the name of the Lord.
“The important events of history are the thousands of humble actions that heal and reconcile.”   …Cardinal Arms of Sao Paulo in Brazil, 1994
Lord, we thank you for the many humble people who enter Jerusalem in peace.
As we think of them, we praise you at the top of our voices
and cry out, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”
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Thomas O’Loughlin,
Introduction to the Celebration

The text in the Missal (p. 123: ‘Dear friends in Christ …‘) cannot be bettered. However, care should be taken to read it as if it were one’s own notes so as to stress the notion that we are entering into the Great Week, accompanying Christ in the Paschal Mystery.

Passion Notes

1. For those who seeking in the gospels an historical record of the events of Jesus’ life, the passion accounts present an awful problem: for the most crucial event in the whole story the early churches had at least four different pictures. When Christians today think of Jesus’s death their picture is invariably a mixture with the people drawn from John and the general scene from the synoptics. Ct the real oneChrist is flanked by two other crosses (Jn 19:18; but a detail common to all four), and standing near him are ‘his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene’ and John (Jn 19:25-26). Nearby also are soldiers casting lots for his clothes (Jn 19:23-25 but with parallels in all four). The scene is one of darkness covering the earth (Mt 27:45; Mk 15:33; Lk 23:44 — a darkness unknown in Jn). Against this conflation, it is worth noting how Luke sets out his scene as it allows us to see his particular perception. The scene of the crucifixion is dark (Lk 23:44) not only in terms of light, but in terms of the courage of his followers: those who knew him, men and women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching the event unfold (Lk 23:49). Near him there are a crowd of spectacle lovers, scoffing leaders and mocking soldiers (Lk 23:35-36). In Matthew and Mark both criminals also taunt him (they are silent in John), but in Luke (23:39-43) we have the dialogue of the Good Thief whose opening words are a confession that Jesus is suffering as an innocent man (23:41). The centurion’s confession is found only in Mark (15:39) and Luke (23:47), but while in Mark this is a christological statement, in Luke it is a declaration of the imiocent suffering of Jesus: ‘Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, and said, “Certainly this man was innocent!”.’ Luke, uniquely, adds another detail at this point: ‘And all … who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts’(23:48).
2. A convenient way to see how Luke’s passion differs from the other is to note those items which are proper to him. These present Christ as the righteous one who is faithful to the end alone. Luke presents Jesus as alone from all those whom he had spent time with, eaten with, and been with in the good times; yet in the dark hour his goodness still shone out and transformed people. While his long-term followers were lying low, Jesus was gathering new witnesses to his truth amidst the moral chaos which was his crucifixion. The sense of finality is heightened at the beginning of the passage when Christ states his longing to eat the meal (the final meal in a whole series of meals in Luke) and that he shall not drink wine again until the kingdom comes (22:15- 20). It is also seen in his instructions for the church after his departure (22:35-7) and his warning to Jerusalem (23:27-32). His aloneness is pointed out in the prophesy that the disciples will desert him (22:21-3 and 33-4), and this is fulfilled in the detailed story of the triple denial of Peter (22:54-62)Jesus and cross
By this time Luke presents all the disciples as having fled. By the time of the crucifixion — in stark contrast to John from whence comes our familiar picture of John, Mary, and the other women standing beneath the Cross — there is not a single friendly face nearby: his acquaintances (hoi gnóstoi) and the women stand watching at a distance (23:49). In the end the only ones who acknowledge him are outsiders who at least recognise him as a good and righteous man: Pilate, a criminal, and Roman soldier. Luke alone has Pilate recognise him as one without fault (23:5; 14-5; and 22); similarly he alone has ‘the good thief’ incident who states that this man has done nothing wrong (23:39-43); and finally the centurion, but while in Mark 15:39 and Matthew 27:54 he states, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’, here Luke has him state simply: ‘Certainly this man was righteous (dikaios).’
For Luke Christ in his passion is utterly abandoned, and he in turn abandons himself to the Father to do the Father’s will (22:22, 29, 37, 42-3). This abandonment reaches its climax in the final cry from the Cross (23:46).
 
Homily Notes
1. The Missal says that ‘a brief homily may be given.’ There is definitely a case today for taking up this permission to omit the homily altogether; not because such an omission might shorten an already long liturgy, but since we have just come through one of the longest verbal elements in the whole of the liturgy (the passion), another verbal event (a homily) does not bring contrast or help the gospel reading to sink in. A better way to highlight what has been read would be a couple of moments of structured silence (e.g. ‘Let us now reflect in silence on the passion of our Saviour’) before standing for the Creed. On the subject of the length of today’s liturgy we should remember that length of time is one of the key non-verbal ritual cues that humans use to indicate special importance: a crucial symbolic event that is over in a moment, or takes just the same length of time as an ordinary event is an anti-climax – do not forget that Christmas dinner must take longer than an everyday meal. Because this is a special day opening a special week, it should md must take a noticeably longer time than an ordinary Sunday.
Holy wk2. If one does preach, then the brief comments should be directed introducing the week as a whole rather than particular comments on the readings. This could take its starting point from the gospel outside – that Christ has arrived at, and entered Jerusalem, and that ‘his hour’ has arrived. As Christians we are sharers in this event.
3. If the situation calls for a meditation rather than a homily, then a suitable meditation is provided in the Christ-hymn (the second reading) as a way of interpreting the events narrated. However, rather than re-reading it directly from the lectionary it may be broken up into its verses and read with pauses. The version used in the Office is better for such use than either the RSV/ JB. Better still, have it sung by a soloist and simply introduce as the earliest Christian meditation we possess on what we lve just recal1ed about the death of Jesus.
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3. Sean Goan
Gospel: Luke 22:14-23:56
Holy week begins with a dual focus, namely the events of Palm Sunday and the triumphant march of Jesus into Jerusalem and then, by contrast, the story of his passion and death. In year C we read from Luke’s account of the passion and it is worth our while noting the differences, as each evangelist highlights different things in order to bring out the meaning of what is taking place. As in the public ministry of Jesus, so too in his death Luke stresses the themes of forgiveness and prayer. Only in Luke does Jesus pray that his executioners be forgiven and only here is the good thief mentioned. Also in Luke, Jesus dies with a prayer of trust on his lips, thus embodying a teaching that he had given many times in his life.

Reflection
Suffering is part and parcel of being human and while we must readily acknowledge this fact it is also true that we usually do all in our power to avoid it. The readings for today are an invitation to reflect on how the passion of Jesus can change our outlook on suffering. Our Saviour may be seen in these texts as a model of patient endurance and of faithfulness. We are not asked to believe that suffering is good in itself but to see that good can come of it and to recognise in Jesus God’s solidarity with all those who endure suffering for doing what is right.
boy-and-cross-of-jesus
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4. Donal Neary S.J.
Gospel reflections

PALM SUNDAYWho was there at the end?
Who was there at the end? The friends of Jesus: from a distance, but still around. They stayed near, not wanting to leave. Did they all stand around for a while? Wanting to go and not wanting to go, like mourners at a graveside – confused, sad and discouraged – silent in the moments of violent death. Were they afraid that this might happen to them too? The friends and acquaintances of Jesus, the one who promised much and said he would rise again… Did any of them remember this promise? Did they whisper it to each other as they closed the stone at the tomb? Did they wonder if more was yet to come? For there was always more with Jesus. We are that ‘more!
centurian at the cross
There also was the centurion: the good man who said, ‘he was a Son of God’. The one from Rome saw through the many from Jerusalem. He was a strange type of guy at the cross – the Roman who had been told to get these crucifixions done, with the least amount of trouble and publicity. Away from home and his own people, he would find a new God in the home of his heart and would be linked forever to a new people.
Something about this man gave a scent of love, and an authority that came from somewhere far away – further than an emperor or a political power. He knew that this man was a Son of God; may we know this too of Jesus.
Lord by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free.
You are the savior of the world.
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From The Connections:
 
THE WORD:
The Blessing and Procession of Palms:  Luke 19: 28-40
Typical of his Gospel, Luke’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem portrays the coming of a Messiah of peace.  The kings of antiquity rode horses when they came in war, but entering Jerusalem on an ass indicates the “kingship” of peace and service that Jesus has come to exercise.  The crowds who welcome Jesus into the city greet him with words similar to the song of the angels in Luke's nativity narrative:  “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Another uniquely Lucan detail is the fact that the people do not wave palm branches as Jesus enters Jerusalem.  Luke’s crowds place their single most valuable piece of clothing — their cloaks — on the ground to honor Jesus.  The holy poor of Luke's narrative place all that they have at the disposal of their Messiah-king.

The Passion:  Luke 22: 14 – 23: 56
Throughout his Gospel, Luke’s Jesus has preached the joy of humble servanthood.  In his final hours, Jesus exhibits that same great generosity, forgiving spirit and abandonment for the sake of others.  Only in Luke’s account of the Passion does Jesus heal the severed ear of the high priest’s servant.  He does not rebuke his disciples for falling asleep during the garden watch.  He urges the women of Jerusalem not to be concerned for him but for themselves: if such injustice can befall the innocent Jesus (the “green wood”), what horrors await an unrepentant (“dry”) Jerusalem?   At the Place of the Skull, Jesus’ crucifixion becomes an occasion for divine forgiveness: he prays that God will forgive his executioners and promises paradise to the penitent thief crucified with him.  Even Jesus’ final words on the cross are not words of abandonment but of hope:  Luke’s Crucified does not cry out Psalm 22 (as he does in Matthew and Mark’s narrative) but prays Psalm 31: 5-6:  “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”  Luke’s Jesus is the Suffering Servant whose death for the sake of humanity will be exalted in the Resurrection three days hence.
 
HOMILY POINTS:
There is a certain incongruity about today’s Palm Sunday liturgy.  We begin with a sense of celebration — we carry palm branches and echo the Hosannas (from the Hebrew “God save [us]”) shouted by the people of Jerusalem as Jesus enters the city.  But Luke’s account of the Passion confronts us with the cruelty, injustice and selfishness that lead to the crucifixion of Jesus.  We welcome the Christ of victory, the Christ of Palm Sunday — but we turn away from the Christ of suffering and of the poor, the Christ of Good Friday.  These branches of palm are symbols of that incongruity that often exists between the faith we profess on our lips and the faith we profess in our lives.
Luke portrays, in his account of Jesus’ death, a Christ of extraordinary compassion and love, who forgives those who betray and destroy him, who consoles those who grieve for him, whose final breaths give comfort and hope to a condemned criminal who seeks reconciliation with God.  The broken yet life-giving body of the Crucified Jesus calls us to embrace that same “attitude” of Christ, that we may bring the same healing, reconciliation and hope to all the broken members of his body.
The Gospel calls us to take on what Paul calls the “attitude of Christ Jesus” (Reading 1) in his passion and death: to “empty” ourselves of our own interests, fears and needs for the sake of others; to realize how our actions affect them and how our moral and ethical decisions impact the common good; to reach out to heal the hurt and comfort the despairing around us despite our own betrayal; to carry on, with joy and in hope, despite rejection, humiliation and suffering. 

Take to the road
What’s the single most important thing you own?  What’s the one thing that defines who you are?  What single item could you not function without?  What’s the one possession of yours that is central to your work and profession?
Maybe it’s your portfolio with your savings for your children’s college fund or your retirement.
For some of us, our paints, our tools, our sewing and crocheting needles are our outlets for creating something beautiful — or our piano, our guitar, our violin is our means for making the music we feel in our very souls.
Maybe your happiest and most challenging moments are on a trout stream or the basketball court.  Or maybe it’s your work tools — your computer, your microscope, your wrenches and drills — that define who you are and what you contribute to your world.
Whatever that one thing is, Palm Sunday challenges you to lay it on the ground before Christ.
Because that’s what the crowd does in Luke’s Palm Sunday Gospel:  They take their most precious possession — their coats — and lay them on the ground before Jesus.  In Jesus’ time, your coat was the most expensive article of clothing you possessed — most people only owned one that was constantly mended and never discarded.  For the poorest of the poor, their cloak was more than an article of clothing — it was their shelter and home.
The holy poor of Luke’s narrative place all that they have at the disposal of the Messiah-King.
Can we do the same?

The Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is about “emptying” oneself in order to be filled with the love of God.  As Christ empties himself of his very divinity to reconcile humankind to the life of God, the people of Jerusalem “empty” themselves of their most precious possession to welcome into their midst the Anointed One of God and his reign of peace.  To be disciples of the Messiah Jesus is to put our “cloaks” — the things we most value and price — at the service of Christ, to “empty” ourselves of our own needs and expectations and use all that we have and are to create the kingdom of God in our time and place.  
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From Jude Botelho:

We are entering into the solemn mysteries of Holy Week as we prepare for the great feast of Easter. We begin with the "Hosanna" which soon turns into cries of rejection: "Crucify Him!" We see the suffering and death of Jesus, his weakness and frailty, as well as his strength and triumph. We witness the shame of the cross as well as the glory and power of the Cross, an instrument of death as well as salvation! What makes the difference is the acceptance in faith and using suffering as a means of love. Have a Blessed Holy Week celebrating the generous love of Jesus for us all! Fr. Jude

Sunday Reflections: Passion Sunday ? "Are you with Jesus? For Him or against Him?" 24-Mar-2013
Readings: Isaiah 50: 4-7Phil 2: 6-1Lk 22: 14- 23: 56

Palm Sunday starts with the reminder of the triumphant procession of Jesus into Jerusalem. He knows he is going to his death yet he goes forth boldly and fearlessly, ready to face what ever is the will of the father. He comes riding on a donkey and people wave palm branches and welcome him. Usually a victorious king would come riding on a charger, a war horse, the symbol of battle, the Lord comes on a donkey, he is not going to overthrow with power, He is going to overcome by choice, by obedience by submission unto death. At the same time, Jesus is not doing this for public approval, to impress the rabble. He does not rely on public approval. The same crowd that cries 'Hosanna' will cry out a little later: 'Crucify Him!'

The first reading points out to us the humble attitude of the Suffering Servant. He is not one who will defend himself. To be a Christian is to be a person marked by the sign of the Cross. For some of us there will be mental agony, for others physical pain and for still others spiritual desolation. We cannot escape the Cross. What is our attitude to the Cross that comes our way? Without faith suffering is meaningless and pointless. Faith does not make suffering vanish from our life but gives us the assurance that He is there with us every step of the way. He does not talk for or about himself. He is the silent one. While he is the first to stand for justice for others he does not demand justice for himself. When we feel we are unjustly condemned how quick we are to hit back, to defend ourselves, to retaliate. Silence is seen as weakness and we feel we have to be aggressive; we have every right to defend ourselves. The innocent one is silent!!! There are times when Truth needs no defence!

The will of God
There is a story about an old man who lived in a small town. He had been an 'Uncle John' figure to countless young people. He taught them to hunt and fish. He was greatly loved. He owned a small piece of land, and continued to live there alone after his wife died. One day it was discovered that a valuable strain of copper ran right through his property. The old man had no use for money; all he wanted was to stay in the only home he had known. Finally the businessmen threatened him with lynching. At the appointed time, these leaders showed up at his front porch. The parish priest was there with 'old John'. The parish priest stepped forward and said: "John knows that he is going to die. He has a last will and testament that he wants me to share with you. He gives his fishing rod to Pete, because he remembers the first bass Pete caught with it. He wants his rifle to go to James, because he remembers teaching him to shoot." Item by item, the old man gave back in love to those who would kill him. The people left one by one. Then the old man's grandson asked, "What kind of will was that, Grandpa?" The old man replied, "The Will of God, son." ?

John Pachapilly in 'The Table of the Word'

In today's reading of the passion and death of Jesus, we listen to Luke's testimony in clear language telling us about Christ's suffering. We cannot read these texts without feeling invited to share Jesus' suffering and also his complying with the will of the Father. The Gospel describes to us in details the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. From the path that marked his joyous entry into Jerusalem, he now walks the path that will lead to his death but ultimate victory. We could look at the passion of Jesus Christ from three stand points, three types of suffering that Jesus underwent and we experience as well: mental agony, physical suffering, and spiritual desolation. Jesus experienced mental suffering in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew he would suffer much and humanly speaking he felt the whole experience of desertion by his followers and disciples, betrayal by his very own, the misunderstandings of the religious authorities and the condemnation to a shameful death even before it happened. It was frightening and He sweated blood just thinking about it. "Father if it is possible take this suffering away from me, yet not my will but thine be done." All of us have sometime or another experienced mental suffering so we can all relate to what Jesus underwent in his mental agony. In time of mental suffering, often the only comfort we have is the knowledge that Jesus suffered mentally before us and is now supporting us in our hour of trial. In every Cross and trial there is Christ, even if we do not see or experience him. Secondly, Jesus suffered physically. He was brutally beaten, crowned with thorns, forced to carry the cross to Calvary and ultimately nailed on it and died on it. Again we can all relate to physical pain. We have all experienced it, some more than others. In time of physical sufferings often the only comfort we have is knowing that Jesus suffered the same way and is now supporting us in our hour of trial. Finally, Jesus suffered spiritually. After having endured the mental agony and the physical tortures as he hung on the cross there was that one moment when he felt that even God had abandoned him. That perhaps was the worse suffering. Where was his father when he needed his consolation and support? It seemed that even his father had deserted him, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Again, we can all relate to spiritual sufferings. There have been times when all of us have felt abandoned by God. To be a Christian is to be a person marked by the sign of the Cross. For some of us there will be mental agony, for others physical pain, and for still others spiritual desolation. We cannot escape the Cross. What is our attitude to the Cross that comes our way? Without faith suffering is meaningless and pointless. Faith does not make suffering vanish from our life but gives us the assurance that He is there with us every step of the way. "If you wish to be my disciple, take up your cross and follow me."

Film: The Passion by Stephen Shanks
Some years ago I came across a short video film entitled "The Passion" by Stephen Shanks. What was unique about this ten-minute presentation of the passion was the fact that the same person played all the roles in the passion. He was Judas and Jesus and Peter and Pilate and the high Priest and ... ?What is the point the presenter is putting forth? In life we all play different roles all the time. There is the saint and the sinner in every one of us. We like to believe that we are not like the rest, that we are better people, that we are different. In all humility we have to accept our weaknesses and our strengths, our moments of grace and our moments of sin.

Your special cross
The young man was at the end of his rope. Seeing no way out, he dropped to his knees in prayer. "Lord, I can't go on," he said. "I have too heavy a cross to bear." The Lord replied, "My son, if you can't bear its weight, just place your cross inside this room. Then, open that other door and pick out any cross you wish." The man was filled with relief. "Thank you, Lord," he sighed, and he did as he was told. Upon entering the other door, he saw many crosses, some so large the tops were not visible. Then, he spotted a tiny cross leaning against a far wall. "I'd like that one, Lord," he whispered. And the Lord replied, "My son, that is the cross you just brought in."
Anonymous

The passion lamentation
A few years ago I was giving a Scripture workshop on the Beatitudes. "Blessed are they who mourn" provided the occasion to reflect on the laments of the Old Testament, which formerly marked the solemn celebration of Good Friday at the Tenebrae service. With the help of a sensitive young liturgist, we put together an evening prayer of lament, modeled on the standard prayer that chose lament psalms and readings. In place of petitions we asked people to utter simple prayers such as "I grieve over..." or "I lament ..." each utterance was followed simply by prayerful silence -no requests for help, no expressed hope that it would come. Suppressed grief and frustration over the reign of evil in our world echoed through the chapel. There was a sense of Christ praying in us during the waning hours of the day. Participants said it was one of the most moving and healing liturgies they had experienced. - The sufferings of Jesus remind us that his followers will also walk to many Calvary's. In a haunting lament our African-American brothers ask us if we were there "when they crucified my Lord." The passion narratives allow us to express abandonment, but assure us no one need tread the wine press alone.

John Donahue in 'Hearing the Word of God'

Marked for death
Voltaire was the 18th century French atheist philosopher. All his life he openly proclaimed and preached atheism. He was a very brave and outspoken critic of religion. But when he neared his death, he started shivering and shuddering. He said to the doctor attending him, "I'll give you half of what I am worth if you give me six months of life." His doctor said, "Sir, you cannot even live for six weeks." Then Voltaire despairing said, "Then I will go to hell and you will go with me." Later, he died in despair. The prospect of his death shook his convictions and composure. -Jesus was marked for death. The Jews were fond of marking people for death. Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel had marked Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas -the terrorist group and Yasser Arafat for death. But why was Jesus marked for death? He did not kill anyone; in fact he taught even his disciples to love their enemies and pray for them. He was the advocate of love, yet the Jews had marked him for death. Jesus knew that he was marked for death, yet he was not afraid of death. He marched towards it. He had a mission in his life and that was to save the world through his death. All people in this world are born to live, but Jesus was born to die. But for Jesus it was a goal he was pursuing. Although, He knew that he would be killed in Jerusalem, still he marched towards his death triumphantly.

John Rose in 'John's Sunday Homilies'

Who is Jesus to you and me?
H.G. Wells, the British historian and novelist, was a non-Christian. To him, Jesus was no more than the world's greatest teacher. He held Jesus in great esteem, but would not make a personal commitment to him. To C.S. Lewis, British theologian, this was both strange and unacceptable. He felt Wells, evaluation of Jesus was inconsistent with his belief. Lewis thought if Wells had such a personal admiration for Jesus, why could he not make a personal commitment? Jesus is surely far more than a great teacher -he is the son of God, he is God made man, he is our Lord and Saviour. To quote C.S. Louis, "When it comes to Jesus, you can't have your cake and eat it too - there is just no room for a compromise. Only four choices are open to you. Jesus was either a fool to be pitied, a mad man to be shunned, a devil to be stoned, or the Lord to be adored." ?Very rightly and wisely, each and every one of us has opted for the last - we respectfully and gratefully honour Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.

James Valladares in 'Your Words O Lord, Are Spirit, and They are Life'

2016:
Today is Palm Sunday as well as Passion Sunday. The palms remind us of the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to the sound of Hosannas and the Passion Sunday readings reminding us that very soon the hosannas will change into "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem was a victory procession. Knowing very well that He was going to face death, Jesus starts on a victorious note. His passion also will end on a victorious note. May this entering into the sacred events not only be a recalling of a past event but the re-living of the central mystery of our faith that gives us new life.

The Lord needs your donkey
Max Lucado reminds us that each of us has got a donkey that the Lord needs. "Sometimes I get the impression that the Lord wants me to give him something and sometimes I don't give it because I don't know for sure, and then I feel bad because I've missed my chance. Other times I know he wants something but I don't give it because I'm too selfish. And other times, too, I hear him and obey him a few times and feel honored that a gift of mine would be used to carry Jesus to another place. And still other times I wonder if my little deed today will make a difference in the long haul. Maybe you have those questions too. All of us have a donkey. You and I each have something in our lives, which if given to God, could, like the donkey, move Jesus and his story further down the road. Maybe you can sing or hug or programme a computer or speak Swahili or write a cheque. Whatever, that's your donkey. Whichever, your donkey belongs to him. It really belongs to him. Your gifts are his and the donkey was his. The original wording of the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples is proof: "If anyone asks you why you are taking the donkey, you are to say, "The Lord is in need." So, what is the name of your donkey? The Lord has a need of it.
John Pichappilly in 'The Table of the Lord'

The first reading highlights the trusting and humble attitude of the suffering servant of God. He does not seek his defense, he does not avoid suffering, he does not run away from it. Instead, he accepts it and meets it head on because this is what God wants of him. At the same time he knows that what he is doing is not because of his strength of will but because of the help of God. What is our attitude to the suffering that comes our way? Do we grumble about it, proclaim our innocence, blame God, or blame others for what is happening to us? We can only be like the suffering servant if we ask for his help to willingly accept the cross that comes our way. "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me."

Unafraid to die
Voltaire was an eighteen century French atheist philosopher. All his life he openly proclaimed and preached atheism. He was a very brave and outspoken critic of religion. But when he neared his death, he started shivering and shuddering. He said to the doctor attending to him, "I will give you half of what I am worth if you give me six month's life." His doctor said, "Sir, you cannot even live for six weeks." Then Voltaire despairingly said, "Then I will go to hell and you will go along with me." Later, he died in despair. The prospect of death shook his convictions and composure. - Most people are terrified and petrified at the thought of death. Jesus was marked for death. He knew he had come into this world and would have to die for men's salvation, yet he was unafraid of death. He boldly enters Jerusalem where he knows he will be put to death. He had accepted his passion and its consequences -death, as coming from the hands of his Father, so he moves on fearlessly, choosing to suffer and die in obedience to the Father.
John Rose in 'John's Sunday Homilies'

The Gospel describes to us the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. We could look at the passion of Jesus Christ from the three types of suffering that Jesus underwent: mental agony, physical suffering, and spiritual desolation. Firstly, Jesus experienced mental suffering in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew he would suffer much and humanly speaking he felt the whole experience of desertion by his followers and disciples, betrayal by his very own, the misunderstandings of the religious authorities and the condemnation to a shameful death even before it happened. He sweated blood just thinking about it. "Father, if it is possible, take this suffering away from me, yet not my will but thine be done." In time of mental suffering, often the only comfort we have is the knowledge that Jesus suffered before us and is now supporting us in our hour of trial. In every Cross, Christ is there, even if we don't experience him. Secondly, Jesus suffered physically. He was brutally beaten, crowned with thorns, forced to carry the cross to Calvary and ultimately nailed on it and died. We have all experienced physical pain, some more than others. Finally, Jesus suffered spiritually. After enduring mental agony and the physical tortures as he hung on the cross there was that one moment when he felt that even God had abandoned him. That perhaps was the worse suffering. "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Again, we can all relate to spiritual sufferings. There have been times when all of us have felt abandoned by God. To be a Christian is to be a person marked by the sign of the Cross. For some of us there will be mental agony, for others physical pain, and for still others, spiritual desolation. We cannot escape the Cross. What is our attitude to the Cross that comes our way? Without faith, suffering is meaningless and pointless. Faith does not make suffering vanish from our life but gives us the assurance that He is there with us every step of the way. -Some people become bitter through suffering, others better! "If you wish to be my disciple take up your cross and follow me."

Mental torture
All of us have experienced mental suffering so we can all relate to what Jesus underwent in his mental agony. I remember meeting a man who had been an alcoholic and who had messed up his life and was now living alone. Talking about his life he said: "Father, my divorce and separation from the family happened years ago and yet every day when I get up in the morning and stare at the four walls of my room I feel like it had happened yesterday. The pain is so real. I feel terribly lonely without my family and I know they will not come back." Confessing an even more horrifying anxiety of what would happen to him at death, he said: "Father, somehow I am not afraid of the moment of death, but the thought that I would be lying stone-dead for days on end without any one finding my body, because no one really cares to visit me, is even more frightening."
Anonymous

Physical Pain
Some years ago, Sr. Rani Maria, a nun working with the poor tribals in Madhya Pradesh, India, was assaulted while she was on a bus journey. She had been working for the social uplift of the poor, helping them to get out of the clutches of moneylenders. Their ringleader entered the bus she was travelling on and stabbed her thirty times and dragged her body out of the bus and left her to die on the road with no one daring to help. She died bleeding to death, a martyr to the cause of the poor. What gave her the strength to carry on her work in the face of death threats was her faith in God. In time of physical sufferings, often the only comfort we have is knowing that Jesus suffered the same way and is now supporting us in our trials.
Spiritual abandonmentIt was this kind of suffering that an American priest, Walter Ciszek, endured in Russia, where he was imprisoned for 23 years. On one occasion he became so spiritually depressed that he was on the brink of despair. But instead of giving up, he imitated Jesus on the cross and turned to God in his hour of trial. He said: "I told God that my abilities were now bankrupt and he was my only hope. I can only describe the experience as a sense of 'letting go'." At that moment, as never before, Fr. Ciszek understood the meaning of Jesus' last words on the cross: "Father, in to your hands I commend my spirit." That one decision, he said later, enabled him to carry on and survive.
Mark Link

Film: The Passion of the Christ
One of the great blockbuster movies which made ripples across the world was The Passion of Christ by the Oscar winning Hollywood actor and director Mel Gibson. The movie is about the last twelve hours in the life of Jesus. In Texas, a 21 year old man, Dan Leach, murdered his wife, Nichole Wilson, and stage-managed it as if she had hanged herself. The post mortem said it was a suicide. Her mother found her body on January 19, 2004 in her apartment. Two months later Dan Leach went and surrendered himself to the police, saying he was the one who murdered his wife and made it look like a suicide. When the detectives asked him why he had surrendered, he said, "After watching the movie The Passion of Christ, I was compelled to seek redemption." The whole movie is one unrelenting violence and bloodshed endured by Jesus -all for our redemption. The common reaction after watching the movie is either deep silence of the audience or tear stained cheeks. After watching the movie one man said, "No matter what you are - whether you believe in Jesus or not, you will begin to love Jesus, who suffered for you."
John Rose in 'John's Sunday Homilies'

The Passion of a Compassionate Christ
"Francis, I have some bad news to give you, Ishan is suffering from cancer -leukemia." The voice at the other end of the phone broke down and I felt a stab of pain in my heart. Four-year old Ishan is the only son of my closest friend in Delhi. I write these reflections after sitting with little Ishan in hospital, crucified to his cot with injections, saline drips and blood transfusions. Suffering even more are Lester and Ishita with whom I sit silently, only being able to whisper, "Everyone is praying for you; Jesus is with you in your pain." Jesus, I believe, is unfailingly with us in our sufferings, and so, it would be fitting on Passion Sunday to be with Him in His. - Passion Sunday brings us face to face with a compassionate Christ. Jesus' passion is, therefore, not some isolated event in his life but the inevitable outcome of a life lived in solidarity, in suffering with the last, the lost and the least in society.
Francis Gonsalves in 'Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds'


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ILLUSTRATIONS:

1. When The Cheering Stopped

Some years ago a book was written by Gene Smith, a noted American historian. The title was "When The Cheering Stopped." It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy.
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2. President Wilson in Europe after the War:

On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn't believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be all right.

The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President's health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.

 It's a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. There are some exceptions, of course, but not too many.  

It happened that way to Jesus...  
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3.  Debtor's Prison:

One of the most gruesome, hopeless places in early nineteenth century England was "debtor's prison." Charles Dickens described it, but thousands of England's poor lived it first-hand. Everything the debtor owned was confiscated. Nothing was left. If any debts still remained, debtors were imprisoned until the balance owed could be paid. Which, of course, could never be, because the debtor was locked up. It was a situation without hope.  

That was "civilized" nineteenth century England. But according to ancient Jewish law, there were moral limits on what could be demanded in payment for debts. Among those things that were legally "off-limits" was a person's most important piece of clothing, their "cloak." Less substantial garments could be held as collateral. But a person's cloak was considered to be in a category by itself. A cloak offered warmth and protection. It provided modesty, shielding nakedness. A cloak doubled as clothing and shelter, functioning as haberdashery by day and as a bedroll by night. 

You could take a lot in payment for debts, but you could not take the cloak off someone's back.

But a cloak could always be OFFERED. Sir Walter Raleigh legendarily swept his cloak off his shoulders and flung it over a mud puddle so his Queen's foot would not be dampened. In today's gospel text cloaks were offered for theological, not meterological reasons.

As Jesus prepared to enter into Jerusalem proper, he intentionally "changes things up." The Galilean ministry is at an end. The time for keeping a low profile is over. It is a new messianic moment. Jesus had announced to his disciples the fate that awaited "the Son of Man" once he entered into the city of Jerusalem. As Jesus crossed into Jerusalem the Calvary cross already stood before him. He chooses to embody the image of the humble king, the meek Messiah, riding on a small and simple donkey. Jesus moves into Jerusalem with obedience and humility. Symbolically his back is already bared, readied for the cruelties and sacrifices that await him...
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4. There Is Still Hope

The reality is that, if we figure to survive in this world, we had better have hope. The ancients knew that. Do you remember Pandora? Mythology has her as a lady endowed with every charm...the gift of all the gods. She was sent to earth with a little box which she had been forbidden to open, but curiosity finally got the better of her...she lifted the lid and out from that box escaped every conceivable kind of terror. Pandora made haste to close the box up again, but it was too late. There was only one thing left...HOPE. That was the ancients' way of saying how important hope is. Even when all else is lost, there is still hope.
This was what had sustained the Israelite faithful from generation to generation. This was what energized the crowd along Jesus' parade route that day.

David E. Leininger, Sunday's Coming!
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 5. Palm Sunday - Who Is That?

Picture Fifth Avenue in Manhattan--the stretch of road where the Macy's parade is held each Thanksgiving Day. Imagine that one spring day a kind of makeshift parade is being staged along upper Fifth Avenue near Central Park. But this is not the Macy's parade, not by a long shot. This is a relatively small affair: no floats, no tickertape, no giant balloon figures floating down the street. It's just a crowd of people waving some tree branches and throwing their coats into the road. At the center of it all is a modest, average looking fellow astride a donkey's colt which actually is too small for him to ride with any kind of dignity.

But the members of the parade entourage are nothing if not jubilantly excited. Especially the kids are making a lot of noise, singing and shouting. The enthusiasm of this little crowd is enough eventually to attract some attention. The people standing on the plushly carpeted steps leading into the Plaza complex swivel their heads. The horses hooked up to Central Park carriages turn a lazy eye toward the parade even as the people in the carriages peer out past the canopy to see what the commotion is all about. Shoppers coming out of Saks Fifth Avenue and the Time Warner Center also start to glance around to discover the source of all the hubbub. And inevitably people begin to ask, "Who is that?" In reply the branch-waving, coat-tossing folks excitedly answer, "Who is this, you ask! Why, it's Joshua Jones, a preacher from North Platte in Nebraska!"

"Oh. So it's not Donald Trump? Not Tom Cruise or Katie Couric, not Bill Clinton? Joshua Jones from Nebraska? Oh. That's nice." But then eyes roll, eyebrows rise, and smirks are repressed as the big city folks go back to their big city business.

Granted that Jerusalem circa 30 A.D. was not New York City. Granted that maybe Jesus' name on that Sunday long ago was a little bit better known than the Joshua Jones in my analogy. Granted, and yet . . . there is something about Matthew 21 which bears resemblance to this allegorical story. "Who is that?" the Jerusalemites ask in verse 10. In verse 11 comes the reply: "Jesus, the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee."

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
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6. Save Us

When we wave our palms and boldly cry out, "Hosanna," do we dare imagine what we really want God to save us from? Save me from anger. Save me from cancer. Save me from depression. Save me from debt. Save me from the strife in my family. Save me from boredom. Save me from getting sent back to Iraq. Save me from the endless cycle of violence. Save me from humiliation. Save me from staring at the ceiling at three a.m. wondering why I exist. Save me from bitterness. Save me from arrogance. Save me from loneliness. Save me, God, save me from my fears.

In viewing Palm Sunday from that angle, we can begin to see the potential for some real depth in this celebration, for embedded in our quaint pageantry is an appeal to God that originates in the most vulnerable places inside of us; and it bubbles, almost beyond our control, to the surface. "Hosanna." "Save us." Please God take the broken places that will tear us apart and make them whole. We beseech you, God, jump into the water and drag our almost-drowned selves to shore. "Save us." "Hosanna."

Scott Black Johnston, Save Us
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 7. Power through Love

Back in our early seminary years Janice and I visited one of her aunts and uncles in Pennsylvania. The uncle had been a car dealer much of his life, and had always wanted a Lincoln Continental, the height of luxury in a car thirty years ago. We were going out to dinner together, and as we walked to the garage he somewhat sheepishly told us about his recent purchase. And then, rather apologetically he asked, "Did you ever want something so much, and then when you got it, wondered why in the world it had been so important to you?" 

Might that not be akin to the reaction of many in the Palm Sunday crowd? They recognized something special, something unique, about Jesus, but Jesus does not fit their preconceived notions of how the Messiah ought to act. They do not know what to make of one who, in spite of a commanding presence, talks not of power through force, but the power that comes through emptying oneself, taking the form of a servant, dying to self in order to find genuine life. The crowd does not know what to make of one who embraces a different kind of peace - the peace that comes from recognition that love, and love alone, can meet and master greed and lust and hatred. The crowd little knows what to make of one who challenges us to embrace a love so potent that, in place of vengeance, we can turn the other cheek and go the extra mile in relationships. Jesus speaks of a love so powerful that it can lead us to face the full fury of hatred and enmity with the prayer, "God, forgive them, for they do not understand what they are doing." It is a love so transforming that it empowers us to confront life - and death - with a spirit of trust: "Gracious God, into your hands I commend my spirit."

Joel D. Kline, What Did We See in Jesus?
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8. Creating Turmoil

In his book, The Freedom Revolution and the Churches, Robert Spike recalls an incident from the early years of the turbulent civil rights movement. Flying out of Jackson, Mississippi, Spike overhears the conversation of a Catholic sister, sitting across the aisle from him, with her seat companion. The sister is lamenting all the unrest in Mississippi, and she complains about the "outside agitators," the students and church leaders who have come to her state in support of civil rights, certain that their presence is provoking violence on the part of white racists. "I do not question their dedication, nor even the rightness of their position," said the sister. "But surely it is a bad thing to create turmoil by stirring up people who feel differently." As the sister talks, all the while she is nervously fingering a cross hanging around her neck.

There's a tragic irony in the sister's words and actions, not unlike that of the first Holy Week. For the one whose cross the sister holds most dear, Jesus, would never have taken the risk of going to Jerusalem and proclaiming a new way of living, would never have confronted comfortable patterns and ultimately endured the cross, had he followed the sister's philosophy.

Joel D. Kline, What Did We See in Jesus?
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9. The Tomb Is Easier than the Cross

In just a matter of days Holy Week takes us from the mountain of festive palms to the mountain of Golgatha's despair. And that is why we resist it so. I mean, do we really need the emotional rollercoaster of Holy Week? What's so wrong with just jumping from one parade to the next and skipping all the sacrifice and death stuff? What's wrong with simply moving on to the joy of Easter, with its white bonnets, Easter eggs, family, friends, big ham dinner, and of course the empty tomb.

Well, I think we know the answer to that. For starters, an empty tomb, at face value, is a lot easier to deal with than a dying, bleeding Savior on a cross. Add to that all the pain and suffering that comes with Holy Week, is it any wonder that the human tendency is to try and ignore the events of the week and simply move on to the Easter celebration? But as much as we'd like to skip Holy Week we know that the only way to Easter is through the cross. We know where the parade of Palm Sunday leads and we also know that we're part of that parade. That is to say, we know this intellectually. Our hearts are another story. Our hearts may be more in sync with the disciples and the fear and disbelief that led them to run away. It would seem that 2000 years later Jesus' disciples are still running away.

Jeffrey K. London, And When You Think It's All Over
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10. Walking the Walk

Christ's commitment reminds me of a Japanese social worker who lived before and during the Second World War named Toyohiko Kagawa. Kagawa was a devout Christian whose faith caused him to have an extraordinary impact on the working conditions of ordinary citizens in Japan. He was so well thought of in that land that he came on a mission to the U.S. before the beginning of the Second World War to seek to prevent that terrible conflict breaking out. Even though he failed in this effort, he gained international renown for his Christian witness and selfless work.

Years later Kagawa was on a lecture tour to the United States. Two college students were walking across their campus after hearing him speak. One of them confessed that he was disappointed in Kagawa's simple message.

After some reflection, the other student replied: "I suppose it really doesn't matter very much what a man says when he has lived as Kagawa has lived."

That is true. In today's vernacular, it is more important that Kagawa walked the walk and not just talked the talk. A consecrated life is far more eloquent and convincing than any well thought out argument. The world will not accept the way of Christ because we can out talk our spiritual opponents, but only because we can out live them. Such a demonstration of the superior quality of our faith will verify our witness more readily than any other effort in which we can engage. Kagawa did that superbly. His life, however, was simply a reflection of the life of his Master.

Jesus walked the walk more perfectly than anyone who has ever lived. He lived out the ethic which he taught. He was totally committed to doing his Father's will. He was a man of courage. He was a man of commitment.

King Duncan

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11. What Is Good For Us Is Hidden

Martin Luther often spoke of this aspect of the theology of the cross, concerning how God works in a hidden way through contrasts. In a series of lectures that Luther gave in 1515 and 1516 on the Book of Romans, he wrote: "For what is good for us is hidden, and that so deeply that it is hidden under its opposite. Thus our life is hidden under death, love for ourselves under hate for ourselves ... salvation under damnation, heaven under hell ... And universally our every assertion of anything good is hidden under the denial of it, so that faith may have its place in God, who is a negative essence and goodness and wisdom and righteousness, who cannot be touched except by the negation of all our affirmations."

Martin Luther had one more observation about why God operates this way - under contrasts and opposites. In another of his sermons, he put it this way: "He thrusts us into death and permits the devil to pounce on us. But it is not his purpose to devour us; he wants to test us, to purify us, and to manifest himself ever more to us, that we may recognize his love. Such trials and strife are to let us experience something that preaching alone is not able to do, namely, how powerful Christ is and how sincerely the Father loves us. So our trust in God and our knowledge of God will increase more and more, together with our praise and thanks for his mercy and blessing.

Otherwise we would bumble along with our early, incipient faith. We would become indolent, unfruitful and inexperienced Christians, and would soon grow rusty."

Mark Ellingsen
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12. Passion Sunday: Surprising and Inevitable

At a pre-concert lecture, the conductor of a symphony orchestra was telling the audience about the major work that the orchestra would be performing at that evening's concert. The conductor told the people that if they listened carefully to the music, they would discover that it was both surprising and inevitable. On the one hand, the musical score would take a fair number of rather jarring and unexpected twists. There would be points in the concert when the blare of the trumpet or the sudden rolling of the timpani would seem to come from out of nowhere in a surprising fashion. On the other hand, however, the conductor noted that in the long run, these surprises would themselves become part of a larger coherence. Once listeners heard the entire piece from start to finish, they would find in the music an air of inevitability--how could it ever have been written any differently?

Surprising and inevitable...
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13. Two Teenagers:

Background:

This poor man lucked out with neither of his sons. He loved them both and they both were goofs. The first was too wild, the second was too rigid and nasty. Neither one appreciated their father’s love. Both tried to exploit him. What’s more he knew they were exploiting him. 

 This is not a story of a prodigal son, but of an indulgent father, indeed of a hyper-indulgent father. Note that he runs to meet the first son and cuts off his phony speech. Note too that he is incredibly patient with the mean-spirited and ungrateful second son. This story is not supposed to provide a model for family life. Rather it tells us that God loves us like the indulgent father, so much that my human standards, he’s quite over the top. 

Story:
Once there were two teenagers whose parents went away for the weekend. As some teenagers do, they decided they would have a party. You know the rest. A couple hundred people showed up. They drank all the family liquor, trashed the house, tore up the garden, wrecked the family cars, burned down the garage, smashed the windows in the neighboring homes, rioted when the police came, and even threw beer cans on the rectory lawn (Really!). 

 When the parents came home to find the National Guard patrolling their streets, they said to their children, “You shouldn’t have done that.” Why not, said the kids. You went away it’s your fault, not ours. You should have never trusted us. 

 But the parents love their children so much that they weren’t angry at them.

 That’s the way God love us.
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14. A BOY WAITS FOR THE BUS

There's an old story of the boy who stood on a sidewalk, waiting on a bus. A man walking by spotted the boy, and gave him some gentle instruction. "Son," he said, "if you're waiting on the bus, you need to move to the street corner. That's where the bus stops for passengers."

"It's OK," said the boy. "I'll just wait right here, and the bus will stop for me."

The man repeated his argument, but the boy never moved. Just then, the bus appeared. Amazingly, the bus pulled over to where the boy stood, and the child hopped on. The man on the sidewalk stood speechless. The boy turned around in the doorway and said, "Mister, I knew the bus would stop here, because the bus driver is my dad!"

When you've got a family relationship with the bus driver, you don't need a bus stop. If your mother is a US Senator, you won't need an appointment to slip into her office. If you've given your heart to the King of Kings, you're in a royal family of unspeakable proportions.
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15. ADD:

Young Harold had a really bad case of Attention Deficit Disorder. On Palm Sunday, Harold’s Sunday School teacher sent empty plastic eggs home with each of her students. Mrs. Wilson told them to bring something back in the eggs next Sunday to represent Easter. She really didn’t expect Harold to bring anything, because he never listened in class. The next Sunday her children brought their eggs back. Susan had a pretty spring flower inside her egg. Joey had a little cross in his egg. Jackie had put a plastic butterfly in her egg. But, just as Mrs. Wilson suspected, there was nothing in Harold’s egg. She was surprised that he even remembered to bring it back! She had praised each of the other children for what they brought, but she didn’t say anything about Harold’s empty egg. Harold looked at her with anticipation and said, "Mrs. Wilson, you didn’t say anything about my egg!" Mrs. Wilson said, "But, Harold, you don’t have any reminder of Easter in your egg." Harold replied, "Uh-huh! It’s empty just like Jesus’ tomb!"
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15. John Singer Sargent at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts

I attended a wonderful exhibition of the works of John Singer Sargent at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. It went on for rooms and rooms. There seemed to be hundreds of works. The artist must never have rested. There was as best as I can recall only one religious work. And that was a riveting crucifixion scene.
Studying Sargent's brass relief, one could better understand why Cicero wrote that crucifixion was the "most heartless and most harrowing" manner of execution.

This solitary work by the master artist Sargent was a fulfillment of the line of a priest who said so prophetically, "The world can never get away from that strange Man on the cross."

The crucifixion was of a type that I had never seen before. It had been made for the Boston Public Library about 1899.  Beneath each of the outstretched arms of the Christ, there stood a figure. One was clearly the young disciple John. The other was a woman, no doubt His mother.

Each one held a chalice. They were catching His precious blood as it flowed from His hands wounded by the nails. They obviously wished to collect each and every drop of it.

The right foot of the Saviour was standing on a serpent. He was meant by Sargent to be a symbol for Satan. By His death Jesus the Christ had bested him.

And at the very base of the representation was a pelican. She was feeding her young with her own flesh and blood. It was a reference to His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. I recall wondering whether the artist knew of the line: "All the love of God crammed into a tiny piece of Bread."

Sargent had himself squeezed a great deal of theology into one brass relief.     For me, John Singer Sargent had brought some fresh insights into the horrible and painful death of the Messiah. It was also the case for other spectators. Many stood around his crucifixion work studying every detail. No one spoke. They were transfixed. They better understood I think the awesome price the redemption had cost the Christ.
Yet, I do think Mr Sargent would have been surprised to learn that the cross did not appear as a Christian symbol till about the fifth century. Many archaeological digs have discovered early Christian symbols other than the cross. One thinks immediately of the ever-popular fish whose Greek letters stand for "Jesus Christ Son of God Saviour." There was the anchor which symbolized hope for the early Christians. And there were various types of Christograms. These were the first letters of Jesus Christ in Greek placed one on top of the other. But there were no crosses to be found among these early century finds.

Why? No less an authority than Dominican Father Jerome Murphy O'Connor, a professor at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, answers the question for Catholic News Services. "The cross at the time," he says, "was being used for crucifixion and torture. To wear it around one's neck would be like wearing a miniature electric chair around your neck today. The idea was repulsive."  Furthermore, many Christians felt it would be dreadful to utilize a symbol of sheer disgrace for their flourishing creed.  Other scholars confirm Fr Murphy O'Connor's view.   Some observers also go on to declare that if the Christians were to wear a cross, they would be inviting serious troubles from the police. They would be broadcasting the fact that they were indeed the followers of the Christ - Him who had been crucified outside Jerusalem by the Romans. So wisely they chose the more subtle symbols of the fish, the anchor, and the Christograms. These were codes that those who did not follow Jesus Christ would not fathom. These early centuries were of course the period in which the Christians underwent serious persecutions for their faith.
In the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Happily he brought an abrupt halt to the centuries-old barbarous crucifixion. Then and only then did Christians accept the cross as their universal symbol. But intriguingly Fr Murphy O'Connor asserts it took another two centuries before the Christ figure was placed on that cross. The why of it remains a mystery.
As we begin this solemn week, we should carry with us this refrain: no one is too bad to be forgiven.
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Stories from Father Tony Kadavil:

1) The six-year-old came home from Palm Sunday services proudly carrying his palm. Mom and Dad quizzed him on his Sunday school lesson for the day. He responded enthusiastically, "Jesus came to Jerusalem on a donkey. And the happy people waved their palm branches and sang, “O Susanna..."

2) "Why do you have that palm branch, dad?"
 
Little Johnny was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from church with his mother.  His father returned from church holding a palm branch.  The little boy was curious and asked why. His father explained, "You see, when Jesus came into town, everyone waved palm branches to honor him; so we got palm branches today."  "Aw, shucks,” grumbled Little Johnny.  "The one Sunday I can't go to church, and Jesus shows up!"

3) The angry Jesus:
 
Winston Churchill once listened to a hot-tempered raving, ranting tirade directed at him by an opponent whose mouth worked faster than his mind. At the end of it, Churchill said, in his own Churchillian way, "Our honorable colleague should, by now, have trained himself not to generate more indignation than he has the capacity to hold." A lot of people are like that.

4. “Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.”
 
Constantine the Great was the first Christian Roman emperor. His father Constantius I who succeeded Diocletian as emperor in 305 A.D. was a pagan with a soft heart for Christians. When he ascended the throne, he discovered that many Christians held important jobs in the government and in the court.  So he issued an executive order to all those Christians: “Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.” The great majority of Christians gave up their jobs rather than disowning Christ. Only a few cowards gave up their religion rather than lose their jobs. The emperor was pleased with the majority who showed the courage of their convictions and gave their jobs back to them saying: "If you will not be true to your God you will not be true to me either.” Today we join the Palm Sunday crowd in spirit to declare our loyalty to Christ and fidelity to his teachings by actively participating in the Palm Sunday liturgy. As we carry the palm leaves to our homes, we are declaring our choice to accept Jesus as the king and ruler of our lives and our families. Let us express our gratitude to Jesus for redeeming us by his suffering and death, through active participation in the Holy Week liturgy and reconciliation with God and His Church, repenting of our sins and receiving God's pardon and forgiveness from Jesus through his Church.   

5,  Passion Sunday and the shadow of the cross:
 
The bishop of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris during the early part of the last century was a great evangelizer who tried to reach out to unbelievers, scoffers, and cynics.  He liked to tell the story of a young man who would stand outside the cathedral and shout derogatory slogans at the people entering to worship.  He would call them fools and other insulting names.  The people tried to ignore him but it was difficult. One day the parish priest went outside to confront the young man, much to the distress of the parishioners.  The young man ranted and raved against everything the priest told him.  Finally, the priest addressed the young scoffer, saying, “Look, let’s get this over with once and for all.  I’m going to dare you to do something and I bet you can’t do it.”  And of course the young man shot back, “I can do anything you propose, you white-robed wimp!” “Fine,” said the priest.  “All I ask you to do is to come into the sanctuary with me.  I want you to stare at the figure of Christ on His cross, and I want you to scream at the very top of your lungs, as loudly as you can. ‘Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.” So the young man went into the sanctuary, and looking at the figure, screamed as loudly as he could, “Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.”  The priest said, “Very good.  Now do it again.”  And again the young man screamed, with a little more hesitancy, “Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.”  “You’re almost done now,” said the priest.  “One more time.” The young man raised his fist, kept looking at the crucifix, but the words wouldn’t come.  He just could not look at the face of Christ and say those words any more. The real punch line came when, after he told the story, the bishop said, “I was that young man.  That young man, that defiant young man was I.  I thought I didn’t need God but found out that I did.”
**
Some years ago a book was written by Gene Smith, a noted American historian. The title was "When The Cheering Stopped." It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy.
 
On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn't believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be all right.
 
The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President's health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.
 
It's a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. There are some exceptions, of course, but not too many.
 
It happened that way to Jesus...      
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 Seven days changed the world. These seven days have been the topic of a million of publications, countless debates, and thousands of films. These seven days have inspired the greatest painters, the most skilled architects, and the most gifted musicians. To try and calculate the cultural impact of these seven days is impossible. But harder still would be an attempt to account for the lives of men and women who have been transformed by them. And yet these seven days as they played out in Jerusalem were of little significance to anyone but a few people involved. What happened on those seven days? During the next seven Sundays of Lent and Easter we will look at these seven days in depth but for now let's summarize:
 
1. On Sunday the first of the seven days, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the shouts of Hosanna, fulfilling an old prophecy in Zechariah 9:9.
2. On Monday he walked into the Jerusalem Temple overturning tables where money exchange occurred, Roman drachmas were being exchanged for Jewish shekels. Roman coins were not allowed. The image of Caesar was a violation of the second commandment. But the Temple authorities were using the Commandment as means to cheat the people and making the Temple a place of profit rather than a place of prayer.
3. On Tuesday Jesus taught in parables, warned the people against the Pharisees, and predicted the destruction of the Temple.
4. On Wednesday, the fourth day, we know nothing. The Gospel writers are silent. Perhaps it was a day of rest for him and his weary and worried disciples.
5. On Thursday, in an upper room, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. But he gave it a new meaning. No longer would his followers remember the Exodus from Egypt in the breaking of bread. 
They would remember his broken body and shed blood. Later that evening in the Garden of Gethsemane he agonized in prayer at what lay ahead for him.
6. On Friday, the fifth day, following betrayal, arrest, imprisonment, desertion, false trials, denial, condemnation, beatings and sentencing, Jesus carried his own cross to "The Place of the Skull," where he was crucified with two other prisoners.
7. On Saturday, Jesus lay dead in a tomb bought by a rich man named Joseph.
8. On Sunday, his Passion was over, the stone had been rolled away. Jesus was alive. He appeared to Mary, to Peter, to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to the 11 disciples gathered in a locked room. His resurrection was established as a fact.
 
Back then these seven days were called Passover, as it is still called today by the Jews. Christians around the world know these seven days as Holy Week, the Passion of the Christ.  In our culture the emotion, pain, and passion of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ has been lost. Let me tell you what I mean...
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 There Is Still Hope
 
The reality is that, if we figure to survive in this world, we had better have hope. The ancients knew that. Do you remember Pandora? Mythology has her as a lady endowed with every charm...the gift of all the gods. She was sent to earth with a little box which she had been forbidden to open, but curiosity finally got the better of her...she lifted the lid and out from that box escaped every conceivable kind of terror. Pandora made haste to close the box up again, but it was too late. There was only one thing left...HOPE. That was the ancients' way of saying how important hope is. 
 
Even when all else is lost, there is still hope.
 
This was what had sustained the Israelite faithful from generation to generation. This was what energized the crowd along Jesus' parade route that day.
 
David E. Leininger, Sunday's Coming!
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Palm Sunday - Who Is That?
 
Picture Fifth Avenue in Manhattan--the stretch of road where the Macy's parade is held each Thanksgiving Day. Imagine that one spring day a kind of makeshift parade is being staged along upper Fifth Avenue near Central Park. But this is not the Macy's parade, not by a long shot. This is a relatively small affair: no floats, no tickertape, no giant balloon figures floating down the street. It's just a crowd of people waving some tree branches and throwing their coats into the road. At the center of it all is a modest, average looking fellow astride a donkey's colt which actually is too small for him to ride with any kind of dignity.

But the members of the parade entourage are nothing if not jubilantly excited. Especially the kids are making a lot of noise, singing and shouting. The enthusiasm of this little crowd is enough eventually to attract some attention. The people standing on the plushly carpeted steps leading into the Plaza complex swivel their heads. The horses hooked up to Central Park carriages turn a lazy eye toward the parade even as the people in the carriages peer out past the canopy to see what the commotion is all about. Shoppers coming out of Saks Fifth Avenue and the Time Warner Center also start to glance around to discover the source of all the hubbub. And inevitably people begin to ask, "Who is that?" In reply the branch-waving, coat-tossing folks excitedly answer, "Who is this, you ask! Why, it's Joshua Jones, a preacher from North Platte in Nebraska!"

"Oh. So it's not George Clooney? Not Tom Cruise or Katie Couric, not Bill Clinton? Joshua Jones from Nebraska? Oh. That's nice." But then eyes roll, eyebrows rise, and smirks are repressed as the big city folks go back to their big city business.

Granted that Jerusalem circa 30 A.D. was not New York City. Granted that maybe Jesus' name on that Sunday long ago was a little bit better known than the Joshua Jones in my analogy. Granted, and yet . . . there is something about Matthew 21 which bears resemblance to this allegorical story. "Who is that?" the Jerusalemites ask in verse 10. In verse 11 comes the reply: "Jesus, the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee."

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
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 Save Us
 
When we wave our palms and boldly cry out, "Hosanna," do we dare imagine what we really want God to save us from? Save me from anger. Save me from cancer. Save me from depression. Save me from debt. Save me from the strife in my family. Save me from boredom. Save me from getting sent back to Iraq. Save me from the endless cycle of violence. Save me from humiliation. Save me from staring at the ceiling at three a.m. wondering why I exist. Save me from bitterness. Save me from arrogance. Save me from loneliness. Save me, God, save me from my fears.

In viewing Palm Sunday from that angle, we can begin to see the potential for some real depth in this celebration, for embedded in our quaint pageantry is an appeal to God that originates in the most vulnerable places inside of us; and it bubbles, almost beyond our control, to the surface. "Hosanna." "Save us." Please God take the broken places that will tear us apart and make them whole. We beseech you, God, jump into the water and drag our almost-drowned selves to shore. "Save us." "Hosanna."
 
Scott Black Johnston, Save Us
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 Power through Love
 
Back in our early seminary years Janice and I visited one of her aunts and uncles in Pennsylvania. The uncle had been a car dealer much of his life, and had always wanted a Lincoln Continental, the height of luxury in a car thirty years ago. We were going out to dinner together, and as we walked to the garage he somewhat sheepishly told us about his recent purchase. And then, rather apologetically he asked, "Did you ever want something so much, and then when you got it, wondered why in the world it had been so important to you?"
 
Might that not be akin to the reaction of many in the Palm Sunday crowd? They recognized something special, something unique, about Jesus, but Jesus does not fit their preconceived notions of how the Messiah ought to act. They do not know what to make of one who, in spite of a commanding presence, talks not of power through force, but the power that comes through emptying oneself, taking the form of a servant, dying to self in order to find genuine life. The crowd does not know what to make of one who embraces a different kind of peace - the peace that comes from recognition that love, and love alone, can meet and master greed and lust and hatred. The crowd little knows what to make of one who challenges us to embrace a love so potent that, in place of vengeance, we can turn the other cheek and go the extra mile in relationships. Jesus speaks of a love so powerful that it can lead us to face the full fury of hatred and enmity with the prayer, "God, forgive them, for they do not understand what they are doing." It is a love so transforming that it empowers us to confront life - and death - with a spirit of trust: "Gracious God, into your hands I commend my spirit."
 
Joel D. Kline, What Did We See in Jesus?
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 Creating Turmoil
 
In his book, The Freedom Revolution and the Churches, Robert Spike recalls an incident from the early years of the turbulent civil rights movement. Flying out of Jackson, Mississippi, Spike overhears the conversation of a Catholic sister, sitting across the aisle from him, with her seat companion. The sister is lamenting all the unrest in Mississippi, and she complains about the "outside agitators," the students and church leaders who have come to her state in support of civil rights, certain that their presence is provoking violence on the part of white racists. "I do not question their dedication, nor even the rightness of their position," said the sister. "But surely it is a bad thing to create turmoil by stirring up people who feel differently." As the sister talks, all the while she is nervously fingering a cross hanging around her neck.
 
There's a tragic irony in the sister's words and actions, not unlike that of the first Holy Week. For the one whose cross the sister holds most dear, Jesus, would never have taken the risk of going to Jerusalem and proclaiming a new way of living, would never have confronted comfortable patterns and ultimately endured the cross, had he followed the sister's philosophy.
 
Joel D. Kline, What Did We See in Jesus?
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 The Tomb Is Easier than the Cross
 
In just a matter of days Holy Week takes us from the mountain of festive palms to the mountain of Golgatha's despair. And that is why we resist it so. I mean, do we really need the emotional rollercoaster of Holy Week? What's so wrong with just jumping from one parade to the next and skipping all the sacrifice and death stuff? What's wrong with simply moving on to the joy of Easter, with its white bonnets, Easter eggs, family, friends, big ham dinner, and of course the empty tomb.
 
Well, I think we know the answer to that. For starters, an empty tomb, at face value, is a lot easier to deal with than a dying, bleeding Savior on a cross. Add to that all the pain and suffering that comes with Holy Week, is it any wonder that the human tendency is to try and ignore the events of the week and simply move on to the Easter celebration? But as much as we'd like to skip Holy Week we know that the only way to Easter is through the cross. We know where the parade of Palm Sunday leads and we also know that we're part of that parade. That is to say, we know this intellectually. Our hearts are another story. Our hearts may be more in sync with the disciples and the fear and disbelief that led them to run away. It would seem that 2000 years later Jesus' disciples are still running away.
 
Jeffrey K. London, And When You Think It's All Over
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 Walking the Walk
 
Christ's commitment reminds me of a Japanese social worker who lived before and during the Second World War named Toyohiko Kagawa. Kagawa was a devout Christian whose faith caused him to have an extraordinary impact on the working conditions of ordinary citizens in Japan. He was so well thought of in that land that he came on a mission to the U.S. before the beginning of the Second World War to seek to prevent that terrible conflict breaking out. Even though he failed in this effort, he gained international renown for his Christian witness and selfless work.
Years later Kagawa was on a lecture tour to the United States. Two college students were walking across their campus after hearing him speak. One of them confessed that he was disappointed in Kagawa's simple message.
After some reflection, the other student replied: "I suppose it really doesn't matter very much what a man says when he has lived as Kagawa has lived."
 
That is true. In today's vernacular, it is more important that Kagawa walked the walk and not just talked the talk. A consecrated life is far more eloquent and convincing than any well thought out argument. The world will not accept the way of Christ because we can out talk our spiritual opponents, but only because we can out live them. Such a demonstration of the superior quality of our faith will verify our witness more readily than any other effort in which we can engage. Kagawa did that superbly. His life, however, was simply a reflection of the life of his Master.
Jesus walked the walk more perfectly than anyone who has ever lived. He lived out the ethic which he taught. He was totally committed to doing his Father's will. He was a man of courage. He was a man of commitment.
 
King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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 What Is Good For Us Is Hidden
 
Martin Luther often spoke of this aspect of the theology of the cross, concerning how God works in a hidden way through contrasts. In a series of lectures that Luther gave in 1515 and 1516 on the Book of Romans, he wrote: "For what is good for us is hidden, and that so deeply that it is hidden under its opposite. Thus our life is hidden under death, love for ourselves under hate for ourselves ... salvation under damnation, heaven under hell ... And universally our every assertion of anything good is hidden under the denial of it, so that faith may have its place in God, who is a negative essence and goodness and wisdom and righteousness, who cannot be touched except by the negation of all our affirmations."
 
Martin Luther had one more observation about why God operates this way - under contrasts and opposites. In another of his sermons, he put it this way: "He thrusts us into death and permits the devil to pounce on us. But it is not his purpose to devour us; he wants to test us, to purify us, and to manifest himself ever more to us, that we may recognize his love. Such trials and strife are to let us experience something that preaching alone is not able to do, namely, how powerful Christ is and how sincerely the Father loves us. So our trust in God and our knowledge of God will increase more and more, together with our praise and thanks for his mercy and blessing.
 
Otherwise we would bumble along with our early, incipient faith. We would become indolent, unfruitful and inexperienced Christians, and would soon grow rusty."
 
Mark Ellingsen, Preparation and Manifestation, CSS Publishing
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 Passion Sunday: Surprising and Inevitable
 
At a pre-concert lecture, the conductor of a symphony orchestra was telling the audience about the major work that the orchestra would be performing at that evening's concert. The conductor told the people that if they listened carefully to the music, they would discover that it was both surprising and inevitable. On the one hand, the musical score would take a fair number of rather jarring and unexpected twists. There would be points in the concert when the blare of the trumpet or the sudden rolling of the timpani would seem to come from out of nowhere in a surprising fashion. On the other hand, however, the conductor noted that in the long run, these surprises would themselves become part of a larger coherence. Once listeners heard the entire piece from start to finish, they would find in the music an air of inevitability--how could it ever have been written any differently?

Surprising and inevitable...