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The Lord Is My Chef Palm Sunday Recipe of the Lord’s Passion, 09 April 2017
Isaiah50:4-7//Philippians 2:6-11//Matthew 27:11-54
We are now in our penultimate leg of the journey to Easter with the Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion ushering in the holiest week of the year. What we are having today are actually twin celebrations from two separate traditions that have evolved independent from each other with the single motive of preparing for the Paschal Triduum of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. In the fourth century, Christians in Jerusalem gathered at the city gate to reenact the triumphal entry of Christ at the start of the Holy Week they referred to as “Great Week” that leads into Easter Sunday. 800 years later in the 12th century as Christianity spread, Christians in Rome led by the Pope had a commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on this Sunday by proclaiming the Gospel, from the Last Supper to Resurrection. During Vatican II, the Council Fathers rightly thought of merging these two traditions on this Sunday that speak so well of our own journey in life to the Father in Christ, with Christ and through Christ that is punctuated with so many tensions and contrasts we have reflected in the five Sundays of Lent.
In our opening celebration of the procession with palms, there was the atmosphere of joy and jubilation in welcoming Christ the King, while in the Mass there was sobriety: no incense as the liturgy is stripped of any semblance of regalia like no greetings before the gospel proclamation nor the customary crossing of forehead, lips and chests. The palm procession was more than a reenactment of something in the past but a reminder to us all of the mystery of salvation we now share with the people gathered to welcome and receive Jesus Christ. Like with what we have reflected last Sunday, there is that “presence in absence” in the sense that Christ is here but not yet, that we are there but not yet too because its fullness comes in heaven after we have died. Here we find the fullness of today’s gladness of Palm Sunday being reserved for Easter. In the same manner, our Passion narrative proclaimed in the Gospel of today’s Mass evokes of the harsh conditions of the triumph of Jesus Christ in Easter: His betrayal, His persecutions, as well as His humility and obedience until death. In both instances, hope never dies as Jesus, the Suffering Servant referred to in prophet Isaiah’s writings, trusts in God Who exalts Him with “the name above every other name” attested to by Paul in the second reading. It is along this line of tensions and contrasts in the procession of Palm and the Passion of Christ that I wish to invite you my dear co-journeyers in Christ to reflect.
Lately I have been visiting a lot of elderly sick people who told me how they spend time watching telenovelas. Almost everybody is hooked on telenovelas, especially the Koreanovelas because they speak so well of life filled with action and comedy, and of course, romance and drama. When we were growing up 40 or 30 years ago there was a popular telenovela that encapsulated this truth about life called “Gulong ng Palad”. The title is actually a Tagalog idiom, that means life is like a wheel, sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down. But the worst thing that could happen with the wheel is when it gets flat and you are stuck under forever. That is what the Palm procession is telling us: not all days are bright and sunny. Like Jesus, people would praise us with hosannas and later, they would be shouting at us with “Crucify! Crucify!” It is a reality we cannot escape. It happens to everyone, most especially to those who truly love like Jesus who brought back Lazarus to life last Sunday. When we truly love, it is not enough we just “know” but we must also “believe” because that is when we are willing to die for another out of love for God and our beloved. This process of believing, of dying in one’s self for those who truly love like Jesus is called “kenosis” that St. Paul spoke eloquently in the second reading: “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness.”(Phil.2:6-7)
When we truly love, we always strip ourselves naked of our very self like when parents forego their own pursuits out of love and dedication to their children, of teachers not counting the extra time they spend to teach their students, of doctors losing sleep even love life for their patients, and yes, of priests and religious resisting the temptations of the world for God and His people. It is in kenosis when we transcend ourselves by relying more in Jesus and doing things in His name. Most often in our kenosis, we seem to be on the distaff side of life when in fact, that is when we truly grow and mature. Think of the times you have truly and deeply loved but hurt in the process. Recall the times you wanted to get even, of how you wanted to shout and fight back only to withhold it not as you could not imagine seeing more people dear to you in pain and sorrow. The martyr in you, in its truest sense as a witness of the love of God, compels you to just suffer in silence and bear all the hurts because you love and hope that things could get better in God’s time. Then, this must be also your song, the Song of the Suffering Servant: “The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”(Is.50:4-7)
Such is the way of the cross wherein we are willing to sacrifice and die by the hatred of others so that they may live again by Jesus Christ’s love. It is only God through the example of Jesus Christ, His suffering Servant, who could give us all the proofs of His love and enable us to hope against hope in the victory of love over death. It is very difficult to explain or verbalize but somehow, we have shared in the Lord’s Passion in so many ways and have experienced God’s glory and vindication, even surprised. Notice in our long gospel account proclaimed today, St. Matthew emphasized how everything that happened to Jesus was not due to a blind chance because Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Jesus faced His enemies in silence and complete trust and confidence in the Father in order to inaugurate a new world order of peace, justice and love. This is something we His disciples have to enter into with so much faith, to be one with Jesus in His Passion. God can never work in us, with us and through us when we insist on our own ways in this life. Notice how from His trial before the Sanhedrin to Pilate, Jesus in His short answers and utter silence turned the tables, putting His enemies on trial instead. And by their own pronouncements, especially Pilate, had to wash hands for he could not make a clear stand against Jesus. Or, how Jesus in His meekness and submission was stripped of His garments, insulted as King with a crown of thorns and a reed in purple robe, later crucified on the Cross, later acknowledged by the powerful soldiers of the Roman empire as truly the Son of God. His Passion reminds us that in joy and in pain, in jubilations and in mockery, Jesus is always with us for He is our strength. Most of all, as we prepare for the Lord’s Pasch on Holy Thursday to Easter Vigil, today’s Palm Procession and proclamation of the Passion remind us that before all our pains and sufferings came, Jesus Christ was there first to suffer for us, first to die for us. Hold on to Him, hope in Him always. Let me end this long reflection with a beautiful quote from French poet Charles Peguy who wrote over a hundred years ago that “The faith that I love the best, says God, is hope” because “Hope, says God, is something that surprises me.” Be surprised by God’s presence in Jesus Christ this Holy Week!
Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

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