Dear Brothers and Sisters,
St. Francis de Sales uses the images of bees many times in his renowned book called The Introduction to the Devout Life, a spiritual classic, that maybe you can read these days of seclusion. Did you know that on a windy day a bee will carry a pebble so that it doesn’t get blown hither and yon? I found it rather humorous that a bee could carry anything but pollen. He used this image to remind us that the love of God for us, as we see this week, should ground us, should keep us from being swept away by fear and the negative news bombarding us each day of this pandemic. Let us use Palm Sunday and all of Holy Week to be like a rock that keeps our feet on the ground, not swayed by our emotions and feelings and giving into bad thoughts of what will happen tomorrow. Do we see God’s love and plan in all of this for ourselves and for our families?
A young mom with a bunch of kids under five was saying, “I cannot curse God for anything bad he has done in my life.” These are very profound words. We complain and we grumble but if we take a good look at our life hopefully we will say the same thing: God has been very good to me. There is nothing here that causes me to blaspheme against him, to curse him. This crisis in front of us can help us to take stock of our life and give it a more serious look, and not sweat the little things. I think you will agree that God has done nothing badly for us. We are like bees that need to carry a small weight so that we not be so fickle in our faith.
Palm Sunday is the beginning of Christ’s ascent to Jerusalem. He goes from Galilee which is 700 feet below sea level to Jerusalem which is 2,500 feet above sea level says Pope Benedict is his amazing book on Holy Week. The ultimate ascent is his self-offering on the cross. A renowned Scripture expert says that all the gospels are passion narratives with a long introduction. Their main point is to show us what happened this week in Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. The rest of their gospels are just window dressing, we might say. There is a lot of truth to this. The passion shows us who Christ is in his silence in the face of false accusations, in his meekness and even his fear of what faces him. His ascent to Jerusalem shows us how he “loves us to the end.”
The first gospel that we hear in the Mass today describes his entrance to this holy city. And it seems normal to us, but to a Jew it would be full of allusions. A king requisitions his mode of transportation and would always use an animal that was never used before. Jesus comes on a donkey, an ass, not a horse which a worldly king would use. He comes as the king of the poor, of the simple; he comes as a king of peace. The image is even more striking that a pope who rides in a small Fiat. All that he does today fulfills the prophecies made of him in the Old Testament. There are over 300 predictions of the Messiah and he fulfills every one of them.
Hosanna used to be a prayer of petition: Lord, help me! At the time of Jesus it became more a prayer awaiting the Messiah. These days we can return to the ancient meaning: Lord, help us with this virus, help us not to be afraid, help those medical workers not to get sick, help this to end soon!!
I was also stuck by the sleepiness of the apostles since I also fell asleep the night my mom died. It was a long week and I didn’t stay awake or hear the phone ring. I am in good company with the apostles who in the end remained faithful. Don’t give in to drowsiness and boredom these days. Make a good schedule and stick to it. Sleep is often an escape.
Jesus doesn’t give in to despair on the cross. His words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” is the beginning of the psalm. The end of it is a joyful confidence; he overcame death; he fulfilled his mission, even if we die, if we believe in him, we will live forever. “Do you believe this?” Jesus asked Martha this question last week. And he asks us the same question today. Christ overcame death. We are invited to live this again this week, not just to remember it, but to re-live it. Use this time well and you and I can experience the true joy of Easter Sunday!