Palm Sunday (C)
(Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14 – 23:56)
Father, into your hands I commend My spirit.
The Gospel is a light of revelation for us: revealing the beauty and goodness, the majesty and power, of God in Himself and in His relations with us; and also the truth about ourselves in our present state with God and our future prospects before Him. Therefore, having greatly admired Jesus’ revelation of God in His Passion and death, let us now -- as His aspiring disciples -- search for truth about ourselves, by confronting our Christian self-awareness and personal conscience as honestly and dispassionately as we can.
Did we, perhaps, find that Gospel reading rather long and -- at times -- a little wearisome? If so, that can only be a humbling and somewhat depressing acknowledgement, in so far as we tend to think that if we were proper Catholics, true disciples, we would not just hear of His holy Passion and Death, but would experience, go through, it with hearts filled with deep sorrow and ardent longing; and we vaguely suspect and fear that such lack of emotional involvement might betray some hidden fault or serious failing in us.
Let us, therefore, take a closer look at that unwanted weariness which can obtrude itself upon us at times when we would much prefer to experience fervent devotion.
First of all, we should be clear in our minds that we are here at Mass, above all, not to get emotions for ourselves but to give ourselves, through devotion, to God. Those words, ‘I don't seem to be getting anything out of it’ should never be part our thinking. We also need to be clear in our minds about the difference between emotions and devotion; for they are not the same, nor are they necessarily found together. Emotions express and affect our natural feelings, whereas devotion is the sign and measure of our supernatural commitment; moreover, our emotions are largely instinctive and self-centred whereas devotion is subject to our will and centred on God. Devotion does indeed benefit greatly when it is backed-up by the power of appropriate emotions; however, devotion is not essentially diminished by the absence of such emotions, and indeed can be at its greatest when deprived of them. Emotion, alone, is of no worth, its function is to assist what is more worthy than itself, whereas devotion is, in itself, always supremely commendable before God.
Dear People of God, it is essential for us to recognize ever more clearly and appreciate ever more deeply that we are sinners and God alone is good; and, because He is so sublimely good to sinners like us we can also call Him whole-and-humble-heartedly the All-holy One. All the blessings we have received in our life, all the ‘goods’ that we have or can have, are His gifts to us: ‘goods’ created for us, benefitting and adorning us. Likewise, all the Christian holiness we might admire, to which we might aspire or long for, is again His gift. But far, far more, is it a gift of Himself, a share in His very own, unique, holiness: it never is, nor ever can be, our own holiness, something we can put on, something owing to us, or something that we can get for ourselves, achieve by ourselves, design for ourselves. Therefore, we must never be surprised at our possible weariness, dryness, or lack of emotional feelings, on occasions like today; for that is a true, indeed it is the truest picture of us, for we are -- of ourselves -- naturally barren and fruitless as far as holiness is concerned.
Nevertheless, as Christians our attention and expectations are most joyfully centred on God, for He is so good, so inconceivably good indeed, that He has given His own Son to save us from our sinfulness, and in return for such a gift we have to try to do what the Suffering Servant, in the first reading, showed us, for:
Morning after morning He wakens my ear to hear as disciples do; the Lord God opened my ear, I did not refuse, did not turn away.
Jesus was always lovingly in His Father’s presence, attentively watching for, listening to, and ever ready to do, His will; and we can best imitate that by repeatedly putting ourselves in the presence of God, putting ourselves in the way -- so to speak -- of Jesus. And that, indeed, is what we are doing here, today: we have learned where Jesus is to be found and have come to put ourselves in His way, waiting and listening in case He should turn His gaze, see us, and choose to speak to us as He did to blind Bartimaeus. If He does not, we should have no complaint, it is His will and we have no claims on Him: whatever He does, we know that He does it for our good and that He is right. If, on the other hand, He does turn His attention our way, then we should gratefully accept the ardent emotions His glance stirs within us and use them as a spur to our devotion, endeavouring thereby to give ourselves back, in the Spirit, to Jesus and to God our Father more completely and more wholeheartedly than ever before. In that way, our emotions can, at times, renew our spirit and spur us on to greater devotion; for ultimately, it is only the enduring power and commitment of devotion that faithfully and perseveringly follows Jesus along His heavenward path.
Our emotions can also be like flowers along the way that afford our spirit refreshment as we pass, gratefully, on. At other times, however, and perhaps more frequently, emotions can disturb and hinder us like stones that clutter our path; indeed, they can even -- and most deceitfully -- serve as honey-traps that would attach us to themselves and lead us to forget the way we have hitherto been pursuing, ignore the promise Jesus has made to us, and no longer aspire to the place He has been preparing for us in the home to which the Father calls us.