Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus
THAT IN ALL THINGS GOD MAY BE GLORIFIED
PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION
Today we begin our Holy Week journey. This is a week like no other in the Church's liturgical year. It can tiring, exhausting even. We walk with our Lord this week, and we feel many emotions. Joy and Sadness. In all this we need to remember that we know the end of the story - the sadness we feel should not be for the horror of what happened but sorrow for our sinfulness.
There is a logical development in the readings this Sunday: in the Old Testament, God asks us to look forward to the "new deed he will do", when he will put "water in the wilderness"; we then see the new deed, which Paul talks about, to be the "supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus", and sharing the "power of his resurrection"; so who is this Jesus, and how is he "water in the wilderness? It is because he brings hope for the future and forgiveness of our sins, as the Gospel story relates. This Sunday's readings are there for our encouragement, to help us look forward to Easter, and the meaning of Jesus Passion, Death and Resurrection: that meaning is Reconciliation and a new creation (as we heard last week). We are driven on through Lent by a vision of the marvels that God has worked, and that God will work for us.
THE LITURGY THIS WEEK
Every year, on the Second Sunday of Lent, we hear about the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain top. Why? Jesus revealed his glory to the three apostles in order to strengthen them for the journey ahead - the journey to Jerusalem, Gethsemane and Golgotha. The same vision is today offered to us, to strengthen us in our Lenten Journey of Faith. Last week we heard about temptation: this week we are driven onwards by a vision of glory that will be ours - the goal of our lives of faith and all that we do as Christians. The transfiguration represents the final destination of our lives, if we are faithful in resisting temptation and living each day as faithful members of Jesus Christ. In our journey of renewal and new commitment through Lent, we are spurred on and encouraged by today's vision to see why the effort is worth it.
THE LITURGY THIS WEEK
As with each First Sunday of Lent the Gospel tells of Jesus temptation in the wilderness; as we begin the journey of Lent, during which we will consider our lives as members of the Church, we look to the example of Jesus when it comes to dealing with temptation. Choosing to follow God's path is the first characteristic of the Christian: this is underlined in the two other readings, which outline the two" creeds" or statements of belief - one of Israel and one of the Christian. Both of them emphasise "believing in the heart and confessing with the lips": both creeds underline the Salvation that God has achieved - for Israel it was freedom from Egypt, for the Christian freedom from death in Jesus.
THE LITURGY THIS WEEK
What is compassion? What is love? And how do we live them out in our own age? These are the questions that spring from the Gospel today. In many ways this is the hardest teaching Jesus offers us, because it goes against so much of what the "modern world" would have us believe. Look at the first reading: David and Saul are enemies, and Saul is suddenly in David's power. The logic of the modern world would say "Strike while you can." But David chooses another path. He is compassionate. We can all think of times when we were in a position to take revenge, score a victory over someone, take it out on them. Our measure of our faith is whether or not we were compassionate - especially with our enemies - as Jesus taught us.
Life is often about picking our way through opposites - choices and decisions that surround every moment of every day: should I do this or that, choose this way or that way, and so on. Just as there are choices on either side, so there are opposing consequences blessings and curses, in the language of the first reading, happiness and woe in the language of the Gospel. In Saint Luke's version of the Beatitudes, we see Jesus setting out very clearly the teaching that life is about choices, and that we must take control, and be responsible for the life we choose, or even the conditions of life that we embrace or accept.
We hear the call of another prophet this week - Isaiah. This introduces the Gospel, where we see Jesus calling his first disciples to follow him. Notice that the initiative is Jesus' there is no application process or interview procedure! Notice also the way that Jesus calls his disciples in this account - not with words, but with a miracle that is also a parable. It is, in a way, a miraculous "job description": if the disciple trusts completely in the one who calls, then the result will be truly amazing - a huge catch of men and women hungry for God. Simon's simple words "if you say so" give us an example of Christian discipleship: we should leave our own concerns behind, and simply follow the Lord with great trust.
The feast of Candlemas is one of two halves. It is of Light and Shade. Of looking forward and of looking back.
Backward to Christmas: because this marks the end of the Christmas season. Forty days after Christmas, the time for purification had come and the parents of Jesus came to the temple in Jerusalem to present their baby to the Lord. They came to offer the sacrifices on behalf of their first-born child required by the law of Moses, to give thanks to the Lord their God for the gift of a son.
But is that all we celebrate today? No, we are on the cusp between the two great focal points of the Church’s Year. We look forward through Lent to the solemnity and wonder of Holy Week and Easter. To grasp the connection between this holy feast of Candlemas and the momentous events of the Christian Pasch in Holy Week and Easter we need to think for a moment about the principal purpose for which the parents have brought their child to the temple. It is to redeem him, to sacrifice to the Lord ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons’.
We also look forward to Lent and Easter. We must look forward to the fulfilment of that redemption in the reconciliation of all people to God and forward to the fulfilment of our own redemption when we come at last to the joy and glory of heaven.
THE LITURGY TODAY
After our brief excursion last week into Saint John's Gospel, we are back on track this week with Saint Luke - whom we will follow for the rest of the year. Today is about beginnings: the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. It begins with the Word of God, in the synagogue. Jesus reads from the Old Testament, as we do every Sunday, and tells the people that it is fulfilled in him. Everything that God has said to his people, through his prophets, comes together in Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God. Today is an ideal Sunday to think about the ministry of reader - about how as readers we make present the same fulfillment, Jesus, when we read the word of God in our Churches.
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