Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday Reflections -- 2008

A liturgical year ago I started this blog with Palm Sunday Reflections.

It doesn't seem possible that I've been blogging for an entire year. Some months I did a lot of reading and writing; other months I barely managed to post at all. I'm not very consistent. Booklady won't win any blogging awards that's for sure.

Well never mind. It isn't about awards anyway. I started this blog to learn and I've certainly done that.

And like Holy Week, which begins today, it's a journey. As I mentioned last year, Holy Week is my favorite week of the year. I look forward to this week now like I used to look forward to Christmas break as a child. Then what I was most interested in was playing with my friends, toys, and having fun. Now I still appreciate Joy and happiness but I don’t pursue ‘fun’ like I did in my younger years. And of course what brings me Joy now is much different than what was fun then. But Joy? Some might find my enjoyment of this week a bit, well, unusual . . . ?

My daughters, for one, do not share my love of this week. In fact, they bemoan having to go to church so much. I can honestly admit, “I’ve been there.” I know–or remember–thinking and feeling many of the same thoughts and emotions they now express. So I don’t try to debate them unduly or even get them to change their minds. It’s mostly a question of where they are in their spiritual development. Right now, they are still following the Faith of their Fathers. Someday, God Willing, it will be their own faith. They have been ‘raised up in the way they should go’ . . . please God, ‘when they are old they will not stray from it’. The proverbial seeds have been planted. The Holy Spirit — and lots of prayer — will take care of rest. I can’t force my faith on them. I can continue to practice my faith and love God (and them!) with all my heart. I do.

But truthfully the struggles they are going through don’t bother me nearly so much as the in-fighting among my fellow Christians. So long as young people are wrestling with issues of faith, they are on a quest for Truth which is the same thing as searching for God and He will lead them to Himself. We never find God anyway; He searches for and finds us. We don’t initiate anything–we simply allow The Good Shepherd to rescue us and lead us Home.

What I find myself most troubled about these days are the bitter disputes among believers over trivialities. I see, hear and read about this everywhere and I imagine our common enemy grinning his evil grin at the wickedness and discord he manages to stir up.

Christians, even within the same denomination, get bogged down with endless discussions about this or that technicality, rule or interpretation. Last night a dear friend and I were discussing that very subject. To me this is what Jesus was warning the Pharisees about. All the rules and regulations (the Law and the Prophets!) are supposed to bring us closer to God and our brother. If they aren’t doing that then something is very wrong. I’m no super-Christian nor particularly wise but I have figured out that you need to stay the middle course, stick to the narrow road. Going to either extreme is not only ill-advised, it leads away from our true destiny.

One of the Pharisees tested Jesus with a question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36 NIV). Jesus replied, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV).

This is what I really think of when I think of Holy Week–the greatest acts of love ever performed, the greatest gifts ever given, the culmination of the best love story ever told. So, from that perspective, every other week of the year, every other event in my life seem rather pale by contrast.

During this one week, all the most important moments of our faith are commemorated. We see Jesus ride triumphantly into Jerusalem hailed by the people as the Messiah. He has just raised Lazarus from the dead; His reputation precedes Him. We join Him in celebrating the Last Supper with the original twelve apostles. He says those words which are so sweet to my ears, “This is My Body!” “This is My Blood!” For a brief period of time I can forget the horror which is to come. Like the Beloved Disciple, John, I want to lay my head on His shoulder. And even more importantly, I want to stay with Him throughout the upcoming ordeal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is still Palm Sunday; this is still a time of celebration. Holy Week will unfold as it always does, a week of solemn remembrance leading up to the joyful celebration of Our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead. The beauty of the mystery of Father, Son and Spirit will again draw me closer and strengthen me for the remainder of my earthly journey.

Sweet Jesus, I love You! Thank You for all that You did for me, especially when I didn’t even care. During this Holy Week I will offer all my prayers and inconveniences for those who do not know You–that they may come to know and love You as I have been graced to do.

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