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Palms, Praise and Holy Week

Author: Fr. Simon Penhalagan

Picture: Cornerstone City Church

Palms, Praise and Holy Week

The passion of Jesus can help us in our current isolation, says Fr. Simon Penhalagan. He is our model and rock.

This year we will celebrate the most important week of the year in a very unfamiliar way.  Rather than coming together as the family of God to remember Jesus’ passion and suffering, we will have the space to reflect on it personally and quietly.

Maybe there is something profound in that. From the Last Supper onwards, and maybe even in the weeks before as he became more aware of its imminence, Jesus entered into his passion alone. 

Indeed, the Palm Sunday readings prepare us for that isolated passion.  We have the extreme opposites of Jesus’ glorious entrance into Jerusalem and his crucifixion.  We have Isaiah’s prophecy of his silent acceptance of his Cross and Paul’s poetic reflection on his ultimate expression of obedience to the Father and service of us, leading beyond the passion to the glory of the Resurrection. 

And, at the centre,we have the Psalm proclaimed from the cross – “My God, my God; why have you forsaken me” – a cry of anguished isolation, but a cry that expressed so much more.

Meekness, Not Weakness

Three attributes of Jesus jump out to me from today’s readings: meekness, humble obedience and  praise.  Isaiah expresses Jesus’ meekness beautifully: 

For my part, I made no resistance,

neither did I turn away.

I offered my back to those who struck me,

my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;

I did not cover my face

against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,

so that I am untouched by the insults.

So, too, I set my face like flint;

I know I shall not be shamed.

Jesus’ action defines meekness.  It’s not weakness, as it can so often be misunderstood.  It is being true to the divine principle of love in choosing not to retaliate in word or action-even when you are receiving the harshest treatment imaginable for living by that principle. 

He set his face like flint-not against his accusers, but to stand true to his self-gift of overflowing divine love. He asks us to set our faces like flint to receive that overflowing love into our hearts.

Moreover, the humble obedience of St Paul’s letter reflects that strong meekness. In summary, Jesus came as an empty, humble, obedient servant – God made man, self-emptying himself of his divinity – that for us, and with us, he might be obedient to the Father. 

Where we failed – and continue to fail – to humble ourselves before God, the Son of Man, the representative of humanity, does it for us, so that we might be free from the fear of death once and for all.   In humility and obedience, he asks us to trust him today, so that our fear of death will diminish as we place our lives more and more in his hands.

Praising God In Our Isolation

Finally, he models praise.  While we remember his words from the Cross, ““My God, my God; why have you forsaken me”, we forget how that psalm concludes: 

I will tell of your name to my brethren

and praise you where they are assembled.

‘You who fear the Lord give him praise;

all sons of Jacob, give him glory.

Revere him, Israel’s sons.

Even from the isolation of the cross, Jesus praises God and calls his followers to praise God.  He invites us to praise God in our isolation. 

Dr Audrey reminds us as Christians to support all our hospital staff through prayer and praise. She said: “This battle will not be won in the hospital.  It will be won on the knees of saints who are looking up to the One in whom all things consist, who can do all things. His purposes will be worked out through this, but we need you to pray.” 

Listen to her powerful words here:

 

The word praise has the same root as the word ‘prize’.  When we praise God, we prize him above all else.  Dr Audrey, and so many of you who are serving the sick in so many different ways, are prizing and praising God as you work, and we can work with you as we prize and praise him too. 

Jesus could not see it from the cross, but he trusted and praised.  We can do the same.

So, as we enter into this holiest of weeks, let us choose to put him first. 

Maybe we can take up an extra prayer, like a daily personal Stations of the Cross.  Maybe we can fast a little more, like giving up TV – apart from praying the Mass online, of course – and read more spiritual reflections or spend quality time together. 

Let’s make this week special, journeying with the Lord in his isolation and suffering, associating our struggles with his as he associates his with ours. 

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