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Palm Sunday - 2019



 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.
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.
walking-with-jesus1We 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

Ct the real one1. 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. Christ 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 crossBy 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
Holy wk1. 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.
2. 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
boy-and-cross-of-jesusSuffering 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.

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4. Donal Neary S.J.
Gospel reflections

PALM SUNDAY  Who 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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ILLUSTRATIONS:

Fr. Jude Botelho:

In the first part of the service we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem acclaimed by all the people. We could dwell on the thoughts of those who were present there. Firstly there are the disciples and the crowds, which were growing in their admiration of Jesus the master. They must have been particularly happy to see their master thus publicly acknowledged by the multitude. Then there are the Jewish leaders who understood what was happening as the crowds proclaimed: “Hosanna to the Son of David.” They wanted Jesus to silence the crowd but he didn’t. Then there is Jesus himself and his thoughts were very different from those of his disciples and the crowd. He did gratefully accept the praises of the people since they were sincere, but these praises did not make him proud. He still remained humble and that is the reason he comes on a donkey fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah.

Triumph and Tragedy

In 1978 President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin shared the Nobel Peace Prize. The award was given to them for their joint efforts to reduce Mideast hostilities by framing and signing the U.S. mediated Camp David Peace accord. The agreement was an unprecedented move on Sadat’s part because he was the first major Arab leader to accept Israel’s existence as a sovereign state. Only five years earlier, in 1973, he was hailed as a hero for successfully sending Egyptian forces across the Suez Canal to recapture Israeli-occupied territories. But in 1978 Sadat was called a traitor by Arab radicals. President Sadat was assassinated by some Arab extremists in 1981. Ironically, he was killed while viewing a parade to celebrate the anniversary of the 1973 battle that had made him an Arab hero. The life and death of Anwar Sadat suggest some striking similarities to the life and death of Jesus, similarities that stand out on Palm Sunday. For both Sadat and Jesus had loyal followers who acclaimed them, but also enemies who eventually killed them. Both men entered their final scene to sounds of triumph, only to depart from it on a note of tragedy.
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’

In the first reading the prophet Isaiah, who lived seven hundred years before Christ, wrote about the sufferings of the suffering servant in such detail that one would have thought that he was an eye witness of the passion and death of Jesus Christ himself. The spirit of God prompted him to say and write as he did. In particular, in today’s reading Isaiah will highlight one key aspect of the suffering servant of Yahweh that he would be obedient and uncomplaining in his acceptance of whatever he had to endure. In all that he suffered he would trust in his Father and surrender to His will. As we listen to the narrative of the passion we need to remind ourselves that the gospels were not written at a stretch but gradually. The account of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus were among the very first sections of the Gospels to be put into writing as nothing was dearer to the followers than to recall and relive the very last moments of Jesus and all that he had said and done before he died. On listening to the narrative of the passion, those Christians and millions of others were empowered and fortified to remain faithful to Jesus in times of persecution. We too, as we listen to the narrative of the passion will find the courage and strength to carry our own crosses and follow after him. As we enter into his passion we need to make an act of faith. During Holy Week Jesus comes in a special way not only to listen to us but also to speak to us and to work in us and through us. Times have changed and the settings have changed. There are no apostles and no Jews but we have taken their place. Jesus is undergoing his passion today through the people who suffer: those who are unjustly condemned to death; those who are betrayed by their very own; those who suffer for their stand against aggression, injustices, human rights; those who are manipulated by power hungry forces; those who are the victims of war; victims of terrorism. The narrative of the passion is unfolding in our very times. May our meditation on the passion and death of Jesus Christ lead us and all those who suffer into the fullness of the Resurrection.

The people, in them I see the face of God…

In one of his plays Padraig Pearse tells the story of Mac Dara, the Singer, who returns home and tells his old school teacher Maolsheachlann about his loss of faith. “Once as I knelt at the cross of Kilgobbin it became clear to me with awful clearness, that there was no God. Why pray after that? I burst into a fit of laughter at the folly of men in thinking there is a God. I felt inclined to run through the village and cry aloud, “People, it is all a mistake. There is no God…” Then I said, ‘Why take away their illusion? If they find there is no God, their hearts will be as lonely as mine.’ So I walked the roads with my secret.” To which Maolsheachlann replied, “Mac Dara, I am sorry for this. You must pray, you must pray. You will find God again. He has only hidden his face from you.” “No,” said Mac Dara, “He has revealed his face to me… the people, Maolsheachlann, the dumb, suffering people… In them I saw or seemed to see again the face of God.” In the people, and his concern that his unbelief might disturb their simple faith, Mac Dara rediscovered the face of God.
James A Feeban from ‘Story Power’
Do you think he loved me?

Manning and Brennan were part of a platoon in Vietnam making their way through the jungle when, suddenly, Manning was sent flying into the bushes, when Brennan threw himself on the ground. There was a terrific explosion, as a landmine blew Brennan to bits, and Manning escaped without a mark. Manning was deeply shocked, of course, but he was also profoundly overcome that his friend had sacrificed his own life for him. His right foot was just about to come down on the mine when Brennan spotted it, and dived. His intention was to get Manning out of the way, but it was impossible to do that without throwing himself in the line of fire. When Manning returned to the US, he joined a branch of the Franciscans called Canons Regular and took ‘Brennan’ as his religious name. Some years after his ordination, he was visiting the mother of his friend Brennan, who was now quite old. She was a quiet little woman, and constant prayer was her daily sustenance. By way of saying something during a lull in the conversation, Manning turned to her and asked, “Do you think that he really loved me?” The quiet little woman sprang to life, was on her feet, and was pointing a finger into his face as she spoke with a clear firm voice: “Don’t you ever ask me that question again. Of course he loved you. Didn’t he die for you? What further proof could you need?”
Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel truth’

I have already died

Henri Nouwen tells of a Lutheran Bishop who was imprisoned in a German concentration camp and was beaten by an SS Officer in order to extract a confession from him. The beatings continued to increase in intensity, but the bishop maintained his silence. Finally, the infuriated officer shrieked, “Don’t you know that I can kill you?” The bishop looked into the eyes of his torturer and said, “Yes, I know – but I have already died.” It was as if power over the bishop had been taken from him. All his cruelties had been based on the assumption that the bishop’s physical life was his most precious possession and therefore he would be willing to make any concession to save it. But with the grounds for violence gone, torture was futile.

Anthony Castle in ‘More Quotes and Anecdotes’

Ready to die that others may live

There was a report of a coal mining accident. Many miners escaped with their lives, but three men were trapped somewhere deep within the earth’s crust. Whether they were dead or alive no one knew. What made the accident even more frustrating was the presence of intense heat and noxious gases within the mine itself. If the rocks had not crushed them, they very well would have been asphyxiated by the fumes or killed by the heat. Two days went by before a search expedition was allowed to even enter the mine because of heat and fumes. Even then there was a great danger in store for anyone who would dare descend into what could be a deep black grave. A brief interview was conducted with one as he was preparing to enter the mine. A reporter asked him, “Sir, are you aware of the noxious gases and the extreme danger of the mines.” The fireman replied, “Yes, I am aware.” The reporter asked again,” Are you still going down?” And the man replied, “The men may still be alive.” Without another word of explanation he put on his gas mask, climbed into the elevator and descended into the black mine. That rescuer put his life on the line that others might live. That’s what Jesus did – by entering Jerusalem, He put his life on the line that others might have life.

John Rose in ‘John’s Sunday Homilies’

You have destroyed my finest plant

The story is told of a little girl who while walking in a garden noticed a particularly beautiful flower. She admired its beauty and enjoyed its fragrance. “It’s so pretty!” she exclaimed. As she gazed on it, her eyes followed the stem down to the soil in which it grew. “This flower is too pretty to be planted in such dirt!” she cried. So she pulled it up by its roots and ran to the water faucet to wash away the soil. It wasn’t too long before the flower wilted and died. When the gardener saw what the little girl had done, he exclaimed, “You have destroyed my finest plant!” “I’m sorry, but I didn’t like it in that dirt,” she said. The gardener replied, “I chose that spot and mixed the soil because I knew that only there it would grow to be a beautiful flower.”
John Pichappilly in ‘Ignite Your Spirit’

We join our sufferings to those of Christ… then they make sense

A.J. Cronin tells of his days as a medical officer to the Welsh mining company in his book Adventures in Two Worlds. I have told you of Olwen Davies, the middle aged district nurse who for more than twenty years with fortitude and patience, calmness and selflessness, served the people of Tregenny. This unconscious selflessness, which above all seemed the keynote of her character, was so poorly rewarded, it worried me. Although she was much beloved by the people, her salary was most inadequate. And late one night after a particularly strenuous case, I ventured to protest to her as we drank a cup of tea together. “Nurse,” I said, “Why don’t you make them pay you more? It is ridiculous that you should work for so little.” She raised her eyebrows slightly. But she smiled. “I have enough to get along.” “No, really,” I persisted, “you ought to have an extra pound a week at least. God knows you are worth it.” There was a pause. Her smile remained, but her gaze held a gravity which startled me. “Doctor,” she said, “if God knows I am worth it, that’s all that matters to me.” – Are we content to do our work in silence, knowing that God knows our efforts, and sufferings?
Gerard Fuller in ‘Stories for All Seasons’
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From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection:

1: Zechariah foresaw it. Jesus fulfilled it. The Greek author Plutarch describes how Kings are supposed to enter a city. He tells about one Roman general, Aemilius Paulus, who won a decisive victory over the Macedonians. When Aemilius returned to Rome, his triumphant procession lasted three days. The first day was dedicated to displaying all the artwork that Aemilius and his army had plundered. The second day was devoted to all the weapons of the Macedonians they had captured. The third day began with the rest of the plunder borne by 250 oxen, whose horns were covered in gold. This included more than 17,000 pounds of gold coins. Then came the captured and humiliated king of Macedonia and his extended family. Finally, Aemilius himself entered Rome, riding in a magnificent chariot. Aemilius wore a purple robe, interwoven with gold. He carried his laurels in his right hand. He was accompanied by a large choir singing hymns, praising the military accomplishments of the great Aemilius. (http://www.sigurdgrindheim.com/sermons/king.html) That, my friends, is how a King enters a city. But the King of Kings? He entered riding on a lowly donkey. Zechariah envisioned the King of Kings, the Messiah, coming not on a great stallion, but riding on a humble donkey. Zechariah foresaw it (Zec 9: 9). Jesus fulfilled it.
2: Welcome to the triumph and the tragedy of Holy Week: On Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, General of the Union Army, at the McLean house in Appomattox, Virginia. This surrender ended the bloodiest war ever fought on American soil. State against state, brother against brother, it was a conflict that literally tore the nation apart. Five days later, on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, America’s most revered president, Abraham Lincoln, was shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theatre. It was Lincoln who wrote the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery in the U.S. forever. It was Lincoln who wrote and gave The Gettysburg Address. Lincoln hated war, but he was drawn into this one because he believed it was the only way to save the nation. On Palm Sunday the war ended. Triumph. On Good Friday, Abraham Lincoln became the first U.S. president to be assassinated. Tragedy. Welcome to Holy Week. Welcome to the triumph and the tragedy of the six days preceding Easter. (Surrender location corrected by Fr. Richard W. Frank, richardwfrank@yahoo.com)
3: “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 AD 305, 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 our active participation in the Holy Week liturgy and our reconciliation with God and His Church by repenting of our sins and receiving God's pardon and forgiveness from Jesus through his Church.  

21- Additional anecdotes for those interested in more stories

1) Am I a donkey with a Christian name or one carrying Christ? An interesting as well as challenging old fable tells of the colt that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday.  The colt thought that the reception was organized to honor him.  “I am a unique donkey,” this excited animal thought.   When he asked his mother if he could walk down the same street alone the next day and be honored again, his mother said, “No, you are nothing without Him who was riding you."  Five days later, the colt saw a huge crowd of people in the street.  It was Good Friday, and the soldiers were taking Jesus to Calvary.  The colt could not resist the temptation of another royal reception.  Ignoring the warning of his mother, he ran to the street, but he had to flee for his life as soldiers chased him and people stoned him.  Thus, the colt finally learned the lesson that he was only a poor donkey without Jesus riding on him.  As we enter Holy Week, today’s readings challenge us to examine our lives to see whether we carry Jesus within us and bear witness to him through our living or whether we are Christians in name only.

2) 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 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.” (World Stories for Preachers and Teachers by William J. Bausch). 
3) In the footsteps of Jesus, the donkey-rider: There is a biography of a man who was one of the most learned people of his generation. He had two PhDs – one in philosophy, another in theology. Further, he was a world-class musician, and concert halls around the world were sold out when he went on tour. Then, to the surprise of everyone, he decided he wanted to go to a medical college to earn yet another doctoral degree in medicine. As soon as he had his medical degree, he left the comfortable surroundings of Western Europe and went into the jungles of Africa. There he cleared away part of the jungle and began building a clinic and a hospital. Once these were built, he started providing medical care to the young and old of Africa. Many years later, Dr. Albert Schweitzer won the Nobel Peace Prize for his ministry of healing in the jungles of Africa. When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, he shared with that distinguished crowd in Stockholm the reason he had built a hospital in Africa. The reason was summed up, he stated in the first words he always said to his native patients as they awakened from an operation. He would say: "The reason that you have no more pain is because the Lord Jesus told the good doctor and his wife to come to the banks of Ogooue River and help you. If you owe thanks to anyone, you owe it to the Lord Jesus." Schweitzer accepted the challenge to be a humble servant of Jesus Christ. And this is our challenge - this is your challenge - this is my challenge in this Holy Week! Look beyond your needs to the needs of others, and you will be on the road to being a humble servant of Jesus Christ.
4) Hosanna leading to the cross: Biographer and historian Gene Smith (1929-2012) in When the Cheering Stopped (Morrow, 1964), tells the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following World War I.  When that war was over, Wilson, the 28th president of the United States, was an international hero.  There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought, and that 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 France’s own heroes.  The same thing was true in England and Italy.  The cheering lasted about a year.  Then it gradually began to stop.  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.  It happened that way to Jesus.  When he emerged on the public scene he was an overnight sensation.  On Palm Sunday leafy palm branches were spread before him and there were shouts of "Hosanna."  But before it was all over, a tidal wave of manipulated opposition welled up that brought Jesus to the cross.
5)  “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy:” A father, Tim Miller, writes about a time when he experienced what God surely experienced that day on Calvary. Miller’s nine‑year‑old daughter Jennifer was looking forward to their family’s vacation. But she became ill, and a long anticipated day at Sea World was replaced by an all‑night series of CT scans, X‑rays, and blood work at the hospital. As morning approached, the doctors told this exhausted little girl that she would need to have one more test, a spinal tap. The procedure would be painful, they said. The doctor then asked Tim Miller if he planned to stay in the room. He nodded, knowing he couldn’t leave Jennifer alone during the ordeal. The doctors gently asked Jennifer to remove all her clothing. Then they curled her into a tiny ball. Tim says he buried his face in hers and hugged her. When the needle went in, Jennifer cried. As the searing pain increased, she sobbingly repeated, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” her voice becoming more earnest with each word. It was as if she were saying, “Oh Daddy, please, can’t you do something?” Tim’ tears mingled with hers. His heart was broken. He felt nauseated. Because he loved her, he was allowing her to go through the most agonizing experience of her life, and he could hardly stand it. In the middle of that spinal tap, his thoughts went to the cross of Christ. What unspeakable pain both the Son and the Father went through, says Tim Miller. [Edward K. Rowell, 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), p. 180.] And it’s true. We see Christ’s courage. And we see the Father’s amazing love poured out. And here is the most astounding thing of all: it was all for us. We didn’t deserve it, but Christ died for us.
6) Silent protest: Henri Nouwen tells a disturbing story about a family he knew in Paraguay. The father, a doctor, was active in protests against the military. He spoke out repeatedly against its abuses of human rights. Local police took their revenge by arresting his teenage son and torturing him until he was dead. It was a horrible crime. Townsfolk wanted to turn the funeral into a huge protest march. But the doctor chose another means of protest. The father displayed his son’s body in the local church. However, he was not dressed in a fine suit. And the funeral director applied no make-up. The father displayed his son as he had found him in the jail. The son was naked, his body marked with scars from the electric shocks and cigarette burns and beatings. It did not lie in a coffin but on the blood‑soaked mattress from the jail. It was the strongest protest imaginable, for it put injustice on grotesque display. (Rev. Tim Zingale’s website, http://www.dodgenet.com/~tzingale/sermonb/goodfridayillustrations.html.) See Christ hanging on the cross, showing all marks of cruel torture.
7) The scar on Harry Potter’s forehead: There is, a villain in the Harry Potter series of magic novels, an evil wizard named Lord Voldemort. At the end of the first book, Harry Potter learns that Voldemort murdered both Harry’s parents when Harry was only a baby. He first murdered Harry’s father and then tried to murder Harry, to be sure that Harry, as his father’s heir, would not be a threat to Voldemort as he grew to maturity. But, of course, he did not succeed in murdering Harry. When he tried to do so, Harry’s mother threw herself in the way, taking the blow and dying in Harry’s place. When Voldemort then tried to kill Harry, he could not. In fact, the curse that he hurled at Harry rebounded onto Voldemort and drained him of his powers. All he could do was leave a lightning-bolt scar across Harry’s forehead. Because of his mother’s sacrificial love, Harry lived and Voldemort’s powers were greatly diminished. Throughout the Harry Potter novels, others immediately recognize young Harry because of his scar. Throughout the series Voldemort makes repeated attempts to capture and kill Harry Potter, but each time he fails. At last Harry asks the wise Headmaster of his school, Dumbledore, why Voldemort could not kill him. This is what Dumbledore tells him: “Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark . . . To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin . . . [Voldemort] could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.” [J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Scholastic: 1998), p. 216.] The reason Harry could not be killed was his mother’s sacrificial love for him. The reason you and I can be victorious over sin and death is Christ’s sacrificial love for us. That’s the reason Palm Sunday is so important to us. That is the reason Holy Week is so important to us. It is not a scar on our forehead but the cross on our altar that tells us that Someone died on our behalf. We are the recipients of an everlasting love.
8) The King on an ass! Some of you heard my story about the husband and the wife who had quarreled. It had been a high-pitched quarrel, each digging heels in to preserve the position each had vehemently taken. Emotions ran high. As they were driving to attend a family wedding in a distant city both were nursing their hurt feelings in defensive silence. The angry tension between them was so thick you could cut it with a knife. But, then the silence was broken. Pointing to a donkey standing in a pasture out beside the road, the husband sarcastically asked, “Relative of yours?” The wife quickly replied, “By marriage!” In modern communication, the ass is a symbol for awkwardness, dumbness, blundering ineptness, non-sophistication. Yet, an ass plays a key role in the drama of Palm Sunday at which we’re looking today.
9) Palm/Passion Sunday: Philip Yancey, an editor at Christianity Today magazine, grew up in a fundamentalist Church which didn't observe the major events of Holy Week. He never attended a Good Friday service and shied away from crucifixes because they were "too Catholic." He writes, "The Church I grew up in skipped past the events of Holy Week in a rush to hear the cymbal sounds of Easter." (Christianity Today, September 9, 1996). We can understand this desire to skip through Holy Week. Jesus on the cross is death; Jesus risen is life! A sanctuary stripped bare for Good Friday is depressing; a lily-bedecked sanctuary is glorious! Who doesn't want to skip through Holy Week? Yet, the adult Philip Yancey has learned that the Bible "slows down rather than speeds up when it gets to Holy Week." What people want to get through quickly, the Bible takes slowly. One early Christian commentator went so far as to say that the Gospels are actually the record of Jesus' final week . . . with extended  introductions. Here's the challenge for Holy Week. We have but this Sunday to cover everything from Jesus entering Jerusalem to "Hosannas," through the moment when Jesus was laid in a borrowed tomb. Even the name for this Sunday reveals our challenge. Today is "Palm/Passion Sunday." It's not "Palm or Passion Sunday," not even "Palm and Passion Sunday." It's Palm/Passion Sunday, two different subjects jammed up against each other.
10) “Welcome home Mr. President.” Newsweek magazine carried the story of the memorial service held for Hubert Humphrey (1911-1978), former vice-president of the United States. Hundreds of people came from all over the world to say good-bye to their old friend and colleague. But one person who came was shunned and ignored by virtually everyone there. Nobody would look at him much less speak to him. That person was former president Richard Nixon. Not long before, he had gone through the shame and infamy of Watergate. He was back in Washington for the first time since his resignation (August 9, 1974),  from the presidency. Then a very special thing happened, perhaps the only thing that could have made a difference and broken the ice. President Jimmy Carter, who was in the White House at that time, came into the room. Before he was seated, he saw Nixon over against the wall, all by himself. He went over to [him] as though he were greeting a family member, stuck out his hand to the former president, and smiled broadly. To the surprise of everyone there, the two of them embraced each other, and Carter said, "Welcome home, Mr. President! Welcome home!" Commenting on that, Newsweek magazine asserted, "If there was a turning point in Nixon's long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion." The turning point for us is Palm Sunday. It is our moment of triumph. It was a triumph because God, Jesus, decided to ignore our miserable state and act on our behalf.
11)  “Greater love has no one than this:” On January 13, 1982 an airliner crashed into the icy waters of the Potomac River near Washington, D.C. Seventy-nine people were aboard that ill-fated aircraft, and of that number, only five survived. All of those survivors had something in common: they owed their life to another passenger, a 46-year-old bank examiner named Arland D. Williams Jr. Workers on the rescue helicopter sent to the crash reported that Williams was one of only a half a dozen survivors clinging to twisted wreckage bobbing in the icy Potomac when they arrived. Life vests were dropped, then a flotation ball. Williams repeatedly spurned the safety line and passed it on to the five others floating in the bitterly cold water. One by one they were taken away to safety. By the time the helicopter crew could return for Williams, however, both he and the plane’s tail section had disappeared beneath the icy surface. He had been in the water for twenty-nine minutes with five opportunities to be saved, but each time he deferred to another. His body was later recovered. According to the coroner, Williams was the only passenger to die by drowning; the rest died on impact. He did not so much lose his life as gave it. When the helicopter pilot was interviewed later he described Williams as a brave and good man. “Imagine,” said the rescue pilot, “he had just survived that horrible plane crash. The river was ice-cold and each minute brought him closer to death. He could have gone on the first trip but he put everyone else ahead of himself.” The man was truly a hero. Later, the bridge the plane hit on its way into the icy water was renamed. Today it is the “Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge.” (Rev. Ronald Botts, http://www.firstchurch.org/sermons/2003/2003070129.htm. ) “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend . . .” That’s what sent Jesus to the cross.
12) "Jesus . . . loves . . . me . . . and . . . I . . . love . . . Jesus."  Author, speaker, teacher Tony Campolo tells how he was asked to be a counselor in a junior high camp. He says everybody ought to be a counselor at a junior high camp. A junior high kid's concept of a good time, Tony says, is picking on people. "And in this particular case, at this particular camp, there was a little boy who was suffering from cerebral palsy. His name was Billy. And they picked on him." As Billy walked across the camp with his uncoordinated body the other kids would line up and imitate his grotesque movements. On Thursday morning it was Billy's cabin's turn to give devotions. Tony wondered what would happen, because they had appointed Billy to be the speaker. Tony knew that they just wanted to get Billy up there to make fun of him. As Billy dragged his way to the front, you could hear the giggles rolling over the crowd. It took him almost five minutes to say seven words. These were the words: "Jesus . . . loves . . . me . . . and . . . I . . . love . . . Jesus." When Billy finished, there was dead silence. A revival broke out in that camp after Billy's short testimony. Tony says that as he travels all over the world, he finds missionaries and preachers who say, "Remember me? I was converted at that junior high camp." The counselors had tried everything to get those kids interested in Jesus, says Tony. They even imported baseball players whose batting averages had gone up since they had started praying. But God didn't use the superstars. He chose to use a kid with cerebral palsy. Why did I tell that story now? Because the crowds, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, Herod, Pilate and everyone involved, even the disciples, believed that the Cross was defeat. Everyone that is except Jesus. Jesus knew that our God is a God of reversal who likes to take our beliefs and stand them on their heads.
13) There was not one winner there were nine winners. The one-time Methodist Bishop of Mississippi, Jack Meadors tells a wonderful story of an incident that occurred during the Special Olympics. Nine children lined up for the 100-yard dash. The gun sounded and the race was off. But only a few yards into the race, one of the children fell and began to cry. For some reason these challenged children did not understand the world's concept of competition and getting ahead and taking advantage when a competitor was down. The other eight children stopped running and came back to their fallen comrade. A young girl with Down's syndrome kissed him and brushed him off. The children lifted him up together, arm in arm, they ran over the finish line. The audience rose to their feet in applause: there was not one winner there were nine winners.   For a fleeting moment these children showed us what the Kingdom of God is like. They challenged the world's concept that first place is everything. In the race that we're in, everyone matters, particularly those who have fallen and are on the outside. Why did the cheering stop? Because on Palm Sunday, Jesus opened the doors of the Church to everyone. It angered some people then, and let me tell you, it will anger some people today.
14) "What did the Christian's God do then?” On Marco Polo's celebrated trip to the Orient, he was taken before the great and fearsome ruler, Genghis Khan. Now what was Marco Polo supposed to do before this mighty pagan conqueror? One false move could cost him his life. He decided to tell the story of Jesus as it is recorded in the Gospels. It is said that when Marco Polo related the events of Holy Week, and described Jesus' betrayal, his trial, his scourging and crucifixion, Genghis Khan became more and more agitated, more engrossed in the story, and more tense. When Marco Polo pronounced the words, "Then Jesus bowed his head and yielded up his spirit," Genghis Khan could no longer contain himself. He interrupted, bellowing, "What did the Christian's God do then? Did he send thousands of angels from heaven to smite and destroy those who killed his Son?" What did the Christian's God do then?” He watched his beloved Son die, that's what the Christian's God did then. For that was the way God chose for Jesus to ascend the throne of his Kingdom and to establish his Lordship for all time. Not at all the way we would expect God to demonstrate his might and power, but that's the way it was, and that is how we know what our God is like. In practical terms, that means that this suffering King, who rules in love, comes to lay his claim on your life. Your entire life, is subject to his Lordship, not just a portion of it. To have Christ be our King means that we rely on him for everything, most of all the forgiveness of sins.
15) The Man Born to Be King  Back in the early 1940's, the British Broadcasting Company provided the people of England with a real spiritual experience. These were the dark days during the Second World War, and Dorothy L.  Sayers' play, The Man Born to Be King, was broadcast. The play portrays the life of Jesus in a reverent and realistic way. I have read that skillful use of sound effects, such as the scraping of a boat on the rocks around the Sea of Galilee and the dripping of water in the basin as Jesus washed the disciples' feet, made the story come astonishingly alive. The season of Lent affords us an excellent opportunity to listen to some sounds - some sounds of the Passion. Over one-third of the material in the four Gospels is devoted to that last week in the earthly life of Jesus. We call this part of each Gospel the Passion Narrative, for it tells of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the arrest, the trials, the crucifixion. Perhaps all this can come alive for us in a different way if we turn off the picture and listen. We can use the ear instead of the eye, for if we hear, we are more apt to be drawn in. If we only watch, we may be mere spectators. So let's try to create a sound picture
16) Jesus weeps: In C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, the young boy Digory is heartbroken by the realization that his mother is dying, and that he can do nothing to save her. He raises his despairing face to the story's Christ-figure, the great Lion, Aslan, and is startled to see the great shining tears in Aslan's eyes. "They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory's own, that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must be sorrier about his mother than he was himself." "My son, my son," says Aslan. "I know grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. So let us be good to one another and take care of one another." Wherever people grieve, Jesus weeps. Wherever children suffer, Jesus weeps. Wherever lives are torn apart, and hearts are empty, and hope dies, Jesus weeps.
17)  Jesus shed tears: Remember what Adlai Stevenson said when he lost his bid for the presidency? (Probably because he was divorced. How far we have come!!) The reporters had asked him how it felt. How was it supposed to feel? (I must confess I am more that a little tired of reporters sticking microphones into the faces of grieving people and asking them how they feel. I'm afraid that if any should ever do that to me, I might explode and say something quite unministerial). But Stevenson seems to have taken it in good humor. When asked how he felt, he replied, "I'm too big to cry, and it hurts far too much to laugh." Where did we ever get the notion that that bigger you are, the fewer tears you shed? I think that is the opposite of Biblical truth. Jesus wept. It is possible that in some way far beyond our understanding, even God can shed a few tears. 
18) King for a day: Once upon a time, before television, there was radio.  One of the most popular daytime radio programs in those days was called Queen for a Day.  Each day four or five women from the studio audience would tell the host what they would like to do if they could be "Queen for a Day."  Then, on the basis of applause, one woman was chosen, and insofar as they were able, the sponsors fulfilled her wildest desires.  She was given a number of valuable prizes and for one day she reigned as "Queen."  That sounds like what happened to Jesus, doesn’t it?  Jesus was crowned "King for a Day" on that first Palm Sunday.
19) Hostages saved: In March 1994, a young man, armed with a handgun and a bomb, walked into the Salt Lake City Public Library and took everyone hostage. The young man, Clifford Lynn Draper, seemed at the time to be mentally unbalanced. He gathered up the people on the second floor of the library and forced them all into a conference room. Among his hostages was a man who had chosen to be there. This man was Lloyd Prescott, a local policeman. Prescott had been on the first floor of the library when he heard the news that an armed man had taken the second floor hostage. He sneaked upstairs and mingled in with the hostages who were being herded into the conference room. Prescott knew that the best way to solve this situation was to hide his own identity and become a hostage himself. Their young captor was angry, violent, and unstable, but he eventually made the mistake that Lloyd Prescott was waiting for. Prescott caught Draper by surprise and shot him, saving the lives of all the other hostages. In the same way, our Faith teaches us, humanity was held hostage by sin and death. Christ was sent to infiltrate our world in order to set us free. He was sent to break the yoke of sin that kept us from being what God created us to be. We remember and celebrate these events in Holy Week.
20) Vicarious suffering: When Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi attempted to redeem his government from what he believed to be a foolish, misguided path toward destruction, he took it upon himself to fast until such time as people came to their senses and the situation was ameliorated. Like the portrait of Dorian Gray, Gandhi’s physical deterioration reflected the moral disintegration of his society. Finally, when it seemed as if the holy man was about to breathe his last, the word came through, he had succeeded in changing the hearts and minds of his fellow Indian citizens. Gandhi’s willingness to suffer innocently and vicariously for the sake of others had its precedent in the Suffering Servant described by Deutero-Isaiah in today’s first reading. (Sanchez files).
21) The Passion of Jesus: The renowned spiritual writer Henri Nouwen, shares how he once went to a hospital to visit a man dying of cancer. The man was still relatively young and had been a very hardworking and generative person. He was the father of a family and provided well for them. He was the chief executive officer in a large company and took good care of both the company and his employees. Moreover, he was involved in many other organizations, including his Church, and, because of his leadership abilities, was often the one in charge. But now, this once-so-active man, this person who was so used to being in control of things, was lying on a hospital bed, dying, unable to take care of even his most basic needs. As Nouwen approached the bed, the man took his hand. It’s significant to note the particular frustration he expressed: “Father, you have to help me! I’m dying, and I am trying to make peace with that, but there is something else too: You know me, I have always been in charge—I took care of my family. I took care of the company. I took care of the Church. I took care of things! Now I am lying here, on this bed and I can’t even take care of myself. I can’t even go to the bathroom! Dying is one thing, but this is another! I’m helpless! I can’t do anything anymore!” Despite his exceptional pastoral skills, Nouwen, like any of us in a similar situation, was left rather helpless in the face of this man’s plea. The man was undergoing an agonizing passivity. He was now a patient. He had once been active, the one in charge; and now, like Jesus in the hours leading up to his death, he was reduced being a patient, one who is ministered to by others. Nouwen, for his part, tried to help the man see the connection between what he was undergoing and what Jesus endured in his passion, especially how this time of helplessness, diminishment, and passivity is meant to be a time where we can give something deeper to those around us. Among other things, Nouwen read the Passion narratives of the Gospels aloud to him because what this man was enduring parallels very clearly what Jesus endured in the hours leading up to his death, a time we Christians entitle, “the Passion of Jesus.” What exactly was the Passion of Jesus? As Christians, we believe that Jesus gave us both his life and his death. Jesus gave his life for us in one way, through his activity; he gave his death for us in another way, through his passivity, his passion. (Fr. Ron Rolheiser). (L/18)
22) Donkey- poem by    BY G. K. CHESTERTON (Quoted by Sherin C.)
When fishes flew, and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely, I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

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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....   
 
Everybody loves a parade. I spent 10 of my growing up years in Savannah, Georgia, where my father was the pastor of a church. On March 17th of each year Savannah has the second largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the country. The whole city turns out for the parade. They dye the river green. Everybody wears green. They eat green grits. Some drink green - well, beverages. For several years I went to that parade and enjoyed watching it. But then when I was in the 10th grade I was in R.O.T.C., military training, and I marched in that parade. No longer was I a parade watcher, a bystander. I became a participant. Everyone loves a parade. Anyone can be a bystander. It takes a little something extra to be a participant. They gave Jesus a parade in Jerusalem a city filled with bystanders. There were not many who were willing to participate in Jerusalem. That parade they gave Jesus was an insult.

Today is Palm Sunday and still we are haunted by those ambiguous feelings which have to do with triumph and tragedy, victory and defeat, honor and dishonor. Today is Palm Sunday and we remember, "Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Today is Palm Sunday and there's a crowd of people out there lining the street to welcome this Jesus to be King of Jews. Today is Palm Sunday and he comes riding in on some young donkey like the old kings of Israel centuries before as they entered the Holy City. Today is Palm Sunday and some little boy who lives out in the country is the first one to come running barefoot into town to tell us the news, "The King is coming!" Jesus is coming down the road to Jerusalem. Today is Palm Sunday and the king is coming. The king is coming and no one can remain neutral. The king is coming and someone must decide.

The king is coming and you must make up your mind about him. The king is coming and we can no longer remain the same - "something's gotta give." Something has to change in our way of thinking. Something has to be different about our loyalties. Something has to be renewed about our commitment. Something has to be chosen above all those things vying for our attention. Palm Sunday will not let us rest, will it? It confronts us always with a choice, for always this king is coming to our city, in our place and time, for over and over again we are Jerusalem. So on this Palm Sunday, I want to remind us of what is before us today.

If we want to be bystanders parade watchers - palm waving, flag waving Christians who go home after the parade and forget it, then we can do just that. Drop in $10, pay our dues, have a good feeling, be at ease and let the world go to hell. But, let me warn you. If you are serious about this Jesus stuff, if you want to be a participant, then you had better watch out and prepare yourself and get ready because these things are before us on this Palm Sunday. As we think about Jesus coming down the road to Jerusalem would you be aware of these things....

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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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 roller-coaster 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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A Donkey for the Master

One day an older woman, a bank executive, was walking past one of the offices at the bank. She glanced in and saw a young woman sitting at her desk, crying. The executive went in to see if she could help. "Nothing's that bad," she said. "Tell me about it." The younger woman explained: "My mother died about a month ago. Just this past weekend I became engaged. We have planned a June wedding. But I don't know the first thing to do, and I don't have a mother to help me." "Oh yes you do," said the executive. "I'll be your mother!" As they hugged each other, an incredible friendship was born--all because one person saw two things: a hurting person and a ministry that she could provide.

Five hundred years from now, as we delight in the glory of God's kingdom, we will not even remember how much money we earned on earth or how big our houses were or whether we had much status or popularity. But we will celebrate forever every single donkey we gave to the Master!

Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com 
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How a King Enters a City

The Greek author Plutarch describes how kings are supposed to enter a city. He tells about one Roman general, Aemilius Paulus, who won a decisive victory over the Macedonians. When Aemilius returned to Rome, his triumphant procession lasted three days. The first day was dedicated to displaying all the artwork that Aemilius and his army had plundered. The second day was devoted to all the weapons of the Macedonians they had captured. The third day began with the rest of the plunder borne by 250 oxen, whose horns were covered in gold. This included more than 17,000 pounds of gold coins. Then came the captured and humiliated king of Macedonia and his extended family. Finally, Aemilius himself entered Rome, mounted on a magnificent chariot. Aemilius wore a purple robe, interwoven with gold. He carried his laurels in his right hand. He was accompanied by a large choir singing hymns, praising the military accomplishments of the great Aemilius. That, my friends, is how a king enters a city.

But the King of Kings? He entered riding on a lowly donkey. If he had consulted his political advisors, they would have been aghast. What was he up to? Leaders are supposed to project strength and power.

King Duncan, Collected Works, 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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If I Can Be the Donkey...

Corrie Ten Boom was a famous Christian whose testimony of suffering in Nazi concentration camps and God's grace through it all touched millions of lives. A few years ago, in a press conference following a ceremony in which Corrie Ten Boom was given an honorary degree, one of the reporters asked her if it was difficult remaining humble while hearing so much acclaim. She replied immediately, "Young man, when Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the back of a donkey, and everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments in the road and singing praises, do you think that for one moment it ever entered the head of that donkey that any of that was for him?" She continued, "If I can be the donkey on which Jesus Christ rides in his glory, I give him all the praise and all the honor."

Mike Hamby, The Triumphal Entry 
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Lose Yourself

What does a Christ-like mind look like as we live in the world? We can see it clearly in the great saints and martyrs, such as Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer. I'm drawn as well to the idea William Placher suggests in his book "Narratives of a Vulnerable God" as he uses an illustration from the world of basketball. Professor Placher writes, "In basketball the players who are always asking, 'How am I doing? Am I getting my share of the shots?' Those are the ones who never reach their full potential. It is the players who lose themselves who find themselves. And it's that kind of self-forgetfulness that makes the best players." And isn't that the case with all of us in whatever we do?

I read about one of the fastest growing churches in the world, with branches in 32 countries already. It is called the Winners Church, and according to its leaders, it lives by a motto that comes from America's religious culture. Here's the motto: "Be happy. Be successful. Join the winners." People flock to that kind of church, I guess. But it all depends, doesn't it, on how we define winning? I wonder what kind of church you would have if your motto were "Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant." Or about this one for a motto, "Those who want to save their lives will lose them and those who lose their lives for my sake, will find them."

Joanna Adams, A Beautiful Mind 

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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. Palm Sunday and the events of Holy Week are both surprising and inevitable. The truth is that we are not completely sure what to make of Palm Sunday. After forty days of Lenten travel that have often focused on serious and sometimes dark subjects, suddenly we arrive at a day that seems at first blush to be surprisingly cheery. The Palm Sunday parade has color and spectacle, cheering and singing, festive voices and joyful exuberance. This seems like a happy day. Yet it would be completely appropriate if you were to ask, "What in the world is this day doing here given how close we are now to the cross!?" Is Palm Sunday a bright spot in the midst of the otherwise darker hues of Lent? Are we, for just a little while this morning, supposed to forget about all things dreary so that we can cry out some full-throated "Hosannas!"? Or is there also a sadness to this day that we must bear in mind?

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations 
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We Are Responsible for a Dead Church

Some years ago, a new pastor was called to a spiritually dead church in a small Oklahoma town. The pastor spent the first week calling on as many members as possible, inviting them to the first Sunday service. But the effort failed. In spite of many calls, not a single member showed up for worship! So the pastor placed a notice in the local paper stating that since the church was dead, the pastor was going to give it a decent, Christian burial. The funeral for the church would be held at 2 p.m. on the following Sunday.

Morbidly curious, the whole town turned out for the "funeral." In front of the pulpit, there was a large casket, smothered in flowers. After the eulogy was given, the pastor invited the congregation to come forward and pay their respects to the dead church. The long line of mourners filed by. Each one peered curiously into the open casket, and then quickly turned away with a guilty, sheepish look....