Rise – Let us be on our way!

Palm Sunday

Gospel Matt: 21:1-11, Is 50:4-7, Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24, Phil 2:6-11, Gospel: Matt 26:14-27:66

First Homily

Rise – Let us be on our way!
Seven years ago I visited Walburga Abbey in Northern Colorado with 14 of my best friends.  We stayed there for five days and while I was there I re-read one of the best books that I have ever read – it is called “Rise, Let us be on our way!”  This book was written by Blessed John Paul II, as a reflection of being a Bishop for 25 years.  In this book he reflected on his journey through the life that God had called him to, and he had some very deep and profound reflections.  He began his journey to the priesthood during the Second World War, at a time of great suffering and oppression.  By the time he wrote this book in 2004 he had spent his life growing steadily in holiness.  In his book he reflected on the beauty of God’s plan for his life and how that plan unfolded to fill him more and more with joy.  The title from his book comes from the words of Christ to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane – Rise let us be on our way!

We stand at the gates to the Holy City
My Sisters and Brothers.  For the past six weeks we have lived a life of Prayer, with Fasting and with Almsgiving to prepare us to celebrate this week with the fullness of our being.  Here we meet at the gates of the city of Jerusalem, to enter into God’s kingdom with our Savior, with joy and anticipation as He invites us to enter into the depths of his Love and his Passion for us.

This procession symbolizes of our desire to follow Christ the King
Today the Church begins her worship of God with a procession.  We like the Jews in the time of Christ re-live this moment of procession.  For us this procession is more then symbolic, it is the beginning of our spiritual journey with Christ this week.  We begin celebrating the kingship of Christ in our lives, and our willingness to follow his law in our lives.  We begin this week recognizing that Christ is the one who is sent to lead us into the kingdom of heaven.

We process as a Pilgrim Church
The Church is often described as a pilgrim Church – the community of believers that are on a journey, on a mission through this life towards the kingdom of heaven.  Being a pilgrim requires a particular attitude of heart that chooses not to be attached to things, to stuff.  As pilgrims we accept with gratitude both the hardships and the joys encountered on the road.  As pilgrims find joy in those who travel with us and who help us in our journey.  As pilgrims we know we are women and men with a destination in mind, towards which we are always seeking.

We are processing to the Heavenly Jerusalem
In a few minutes we will process from here to the entrance of St. Anthony’s.  The Church that we enter today is a symbol of the City of Jerusalem, both the city of old, and the Heavenly Jerusalem towards which we journey.  The symbolism of this procession here today is the symbol of us journeying through our lives towards heaven with our Messiah – with Christ.  This procession today represents our willingness to walk with Christ towards his passion and suffering and death.  This procession today leads us into our celebration this week of Holy Week.

Giving thanks to God for the Journey he has called us to
While we process through the world, let us give thanks to God for the gift of this week by singing Hosanna in the highest!  That means that we praise God with all of our hearts in thanksgiving for this moment.  To be able to pray this way means that we have taken stock of where we are this Lent and are truly grateful to God for his role in our life.

Second Homily – After the Passion
I first read Blessed John Paul II’s book in December of 2005, when my son Mark was born.  I knew what the Hospital drill was like, with Mark being kid #5, there would be some intense time, but then a lot of quiet time to be spent while Mom slept and Mark napped.  So, I picked up this book to accompany me on that Journey.  During the three days we spent in the hospital I had many a quiet hour sitting there holding my new Son while he slept, and while Tina was resting I was able to journey with the Pope and learn about the journey of his life.  Reading his book made me reflect on the inconsistency of my life – I loved God greatly, and yet I found that I still fell into sin.  If only I could get my act together!

That same inconsistency exists today, and as I reflected on this Mass, that inconsistency exists even in our celebration of this Eucharist.  Notice how we began this mass celebrating Christ as King, and rejoicing in his entry into our lives and into our church.  Then, minutes later we are standing here reading the passion, asking Pilate to Crucify Christ – the one we welcomed here with Joy.

Our relationship with God is trapped in a contradiction
Our relationship with God is a contradiction and confusion.  I think this reflects our relationship with God.  On one hand we love Him and have a deep desire to want to know him and honor Him.  On the other hand, we reject and rebel against God and His plan for our life.  We see this most clearly when we reflect on our life of Sin.  When we come to Mass on Sunday we are most likely saying to God – I love you, I need you in my life, and I am here today so that my life can be illuminated by your love a little more.

When we are away from the Church we get caught up with the Crowd and Scream “Crucify Him!”
However when we are away from the Church, we are attacked by the temptations of the world and perhaps led astray – we get caught up in the crowd of the world with the emotion of the crowd and we begin to do the things that the world does – like living together without being married, like lying, stealing, or tearing one another down with our words or our gossip.  When we fall into these patterns of behaving we are going along with the Crowd and our actions join the shouts of the Crowd as they scream at Pilate – “Crucify Him”!

If we are honest, we are more likely to scream Crucify Him than to cry out “Hosanna is the King”
How do we deal with this contradiction of Love in our lives?
The question that all Christians need to answer is who do I love more – God or Sin?  The reason why we have spent the past six weeks in prayer and fasting and almsgiving is so that our hearts are free to examine this difficult question.  When we choose to celebrate Holy Week, we have the opportunity to confront this contradiction in a deep way so that Christ can enter more deeply into our lives.

Lent is a time to work on our relationship with God – Holy Week is the crowning experience
At its heart our celebration of Holy Week is a reflection on the love of God.  It is an opportunity for us to accept Gods love in a deeper and more profound way this year.

How has this Lent purified us?  Me?
When we entered into Lent we were invited to begin a life of prayer and fasting and almsgiving.  For many of us here today we have been faithful to those disciplines, and are perhaps longing for Easter so we can resume the habits of the things that we have given up for Lent.  For others, we have forgotten our discipline, and might even feel a little embarrassed to see how we have lived during this Lent. I want to invite us to reflect on three different questions:

  • What have I learned my Lenten Discipline this Lent?
  • In what way have I changed this Lent?    
  • How have my Lenten Disciplines helped me to grow in my relationship with God?  

Three Examples
Holy Week is an opportunity to draw valuable lessons from our Lenten practices.  It is a time to look back on our practices of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving and to

Prayer – Holy Thursday
Perhaps I have taken up a deeper form of prayer for this Lent – either by praying more or by trying to be more attentive to God in my prayer.  Am I more aware of God’s presence in my life?  Is my prayer less distracted?  Do I have a clearer sense of God’s role in my life?

This Holy Thursday we celebrate the Mass of the Last Supper and the start of the Passion of Christ.  It is the perfect opportunity for us to gather and pray in deep and profound ways.  It is a great way to work on my relationship with God, to eat with him at the feast of the Last Supper, and then to watch and pray with him in the Garden as he has to reconcile his will with God’s.  Praying in adoration after the Mass of the Last Supper is a powerful way to learn and understand what Christ means when he says “Not my will Lord, but yours be done”.

Fasting – Good Friday
Good Friday this week is a day of fasting and abstinence from meat.  We fast on Good Friday to have solidarity with Christ’s suffering.  Fasting is the most popular discipline of Lent, we all like to “give something up” – but often that is as far as it goes.  By fasting during Lent we are trying to teach ourselves to imitate Christ’s Love.  By fasting we imitate Christ’s willingness to accept suffering so that we could enter into God’s kingdom.  This is what St. Paul speaks about in the second reading.

This Friday we have an opportunity to learn to love as Christ loves, to embrace the cross and to follow Christ.  To learn to depend on God and to do what is right, even though it is difficult.  This Good Friday we have the opportunity to return here and to reflect more deeply on Christ’s total obedience to God, and his total willingness to enter into death through love rather than

Almsgiving – the Easter Vigil
Almsgiving – the ability to share the gifts that we have been given by God comes from a heart of gratitude.  There can be no greater sense of Almsgiving then to discover that my life has been saved.  It is a debt that cannot be repaid.

So how do I repay God for the gift of eternal life that He has given me?  By imitating His love, by sharing the gifts that I have been given with those who are in need.  At it’s heart this is the gift of Almsgiving – it comes from a generous heart that is aware of the gifts that God has given me.

At the Easter Vigil we retell the whole story of creation and salvation.  We see learn how much that God has loved us and we begin to see his love poured out on those who receive him with the fullness of sacramental grace this year.

Walking to Jerusalem
We began this mass walking with Christ into the Heavenly Jerusalem, journeying with Christ as a symbol of our life here on Earth.  Let us enter into this entire Holy Week with a spirit of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving so that we can learn from the Lord the life-changing lessons that he wishes to teach us this Lent.  That we might grow in holiness in our relationship with God and one Another.  Rise – Let us be on be on our way!

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