March 28, 2021 – Palm Sunday
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/032821.cfm)
Four newly-ordained priests were summoned by the bishop for their first assignment. The bishop said, “Now, my sons, after all your theological studies and ordination as well as few months’ vacation, I am sure, you are all ready and excited for your new assignment. But before I give you your parish assignment, I would like to put you into a simple test. Choose one item from this table”. First one chose a pebble, the next, a ball of cotton, the other, a clay, and the last, a cube of sugar. Then the bishop said: “put your item into a glass of water and observe”. The pebble gets wet and making the water increases its volume. The cotton ball absorbs the water thus, lessen the water volume. The clay dissolves but polluted the water. The sugar dissolves in the water.
The bishop then told them, “this simple exercise is plain illustration of what kind of pastor may you will be in your new assigned parish. You can be like a pebble, except for being a new member; your presence adds nothing to you and the community. Your indifference does not help the faith and growth of the community, as well as yours. You may also become cotton, who joins in the community but your presence absorbs the community. Your selfishness and self-centeredness weaken and lessen the faith life of the community. You may also become clay, where you easily dissolve in the community but you contaminate the community with your negative pessimistic evil and sinful ways. But you may also become a sugar in the community, who easily fits in and with your gentle presence, one could not distinguish you from the community, except when tasted, you make the community sweet and drinkable. So what kind of priest will you be in the community?
Perhaps, the question is also true with: what kind of church member am I? am I like the indifferent stone, who does not care? Am I the self-absorbing cotton, who sucks all the energy of the community? Am I the dirty-clay who contaminates the community with my negative attitude? Or am I a sugar who makes the community sweet and drinkable.
Again, in our rather long gospel today, we have heard the drama of the last days of Jesus. We are again reminded of the sufferings Jesus had gone through so that we may live and be saved. Jesus suffered a lot to the point of giving up his life so that we may live and realized God’s great love for each one of us.
However, the suffering of Jesus did not begin on the cross or in the garden of Gethsemane. More than the thorns and nails were the sufferings of abandonment, rejection and betrayal of his community and his friends. The fact that these are psychological pains & sufferings does not make them any less real.
In today’s Gospel reading of the passion of the Lord, we have the Lord at table with His closest friends, with His community, His church. There were the ones with whom He shared everything He was and hoped for. Yet even from them, one would rise and leave to betray Him. We cannot help but feel that pangs of sadness, which stabbed the heart of Jesus when He heard the door close and heard the steps of His betrayer hurry on their mission. More than any physical pain, the rejection and refusal of people, his community to accept His love was hurting to the Lord.
We have no reason to believe that such pain in the Lord is over. He has indeed risen and no thorn or nail can harm His risen and transformed body. But the pains of refusal and rejection of Jesus remain through our own refusal, rejection, sinfulness, indifferences, and insensitivity for other, within our community. Jesus also is still experiencing the suffering we have encountered in our relationship within the community.
In this sense, the passion of Christ continues in our own day.
Who are we then in the passion of Christ? Are we the heartless stone who does not care? Or the self-absorbed cotton who cares only about ourselves? Or the contaminated clay who infects virus to others? Or the self-dissolving sugar who contributes to make our life better and meaningful?
May we have a fruitful and meaningful celebration of Holy Week this year.
So Help us God. So May it Be. Amen.