Readings for Palm Sunday
A reflection on the readings
The Sunday we celebrate today is known as Palm Sunday, but we could also call it the Sunday of contradiction, of contrast. In the arrangement of today’s liturgy – and that is what is important here – the Palm Sunday story stands in a very specific tension.
The evangelists deliberately report the Lord’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem in such a way that the further course of history stands out in special contrast to today. What looks so peaceful and enthusiastic today will soon transform into a treason trial. The throne of the new king of peace will not be in a palace, but at the place of execution, and it will be a cross: ‘soldiers took Jesus with them into the Praetorium and collected the whole cohort round him. Then they stripped him and made him wear a scarlet cloak, and having twisted some thorns into a crown they put this on his head and placed a reed in his right hand. To make fun of him they knelt to him saying, Hail, king of the Jews!’
In the person of Jesus the words of the Prophet Isaiah, in the first reading, become reality:
“ ‘For my part, I made no resistance,neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.’
Palm Sunday presents us the King Jesus crucified on the cross and humiliated. He who is the Lord of heaven and earth chooses the cross as his throne, and a branch of thorns as a royal crown.
That is exactly how he understands his mission: He is a King of love and reconciliation. A king who invites to a new beginning.
Where Jesus Christ is present, there are no longer winners and losers, but only loved and reconciled. This also means that where men begin to love and reconcile, the kingdom of Jesus comes. This is the logic of the divine world, this is the logic of today’s celebration. Man can choose between two ways. The first way is that of power, domination, oppression, the power of money. The other way embraces the power of love and reconciliation.
Deep in our hearts we can recognise that this second way – of love – is always more effective than the power based on violence, hate, injustice and inhumanity. Every healthy-minded human being can hear the voice of his conscience which tells him: you can continue to be a true man only if you respect and love yourself and your neighbour; you can be a true king if you are able to dominate yourself and serve others.
We ask ourselves then: Why does man often try to rule the world with violence, even though love is more effective? This happens because man is weak and therefore full of fear. Tyrants, oppressors and dictators are also weak – because they fear losing power, and use violence and war to conserve this power. Tyranny, dictatorship, oppression are nothing more than weakness disguised, dressed up as power. Only weak men have to use violence; strong men are able to accept other strong men and rejoice in the complete success of others.
We have to look at Jesus crucified on the cross and learn from him that we, too, in our daily lives should not be tempted to respond to violence with violence, but with kindness and love. I know: this is a very beautiful ideal. May the Passion of the Lord help us to start with small steps. And be sure that love will always bear fruit.
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’
‘Let him be crucified!.’
It’s really very impressive how quickly one goes from glory to humiliation. We also experience these contradictory situations in our lives: luck and bad luck, success and failure, health and disease…
This tension is the characteristic of all Holy Week that we Christians begin today. ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ … – ‘Let him be crucified!.’ A radical break, but human life can be so contradictory!
The Son of God burdens himself with this human condition, and wants to accompany us through all…!
Readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent
A reflection on the readings
A few weeks ago, before we had to close the Church and stop all activities in the parish due to the coronavirus crisis, we had planned to celebrate a mass for children on this fifth Sunday of Lent. We had chosen as a symbol for reflection a tree, which we wanted to plant with the children during the Mass. We still had time to procure the tree, which is now completely alone and isolated in the narthex of our parish church. A still small, fragile and leafless tree. Even more: it seems lifeless. It seems dead. Perhaps an appropriate image for the current situation in the world, in our country and also in our parish… Anyway, I will continue giving it water and manure and I will send you pictures so you can see when something changes…
We all know the sight of the deciduous trees in autumn and winter: when summer comes to an end, the first leaves change colour. Soon the leaves of the trees shine in a variety of colours. The trees spend the winter completely bare before new leaves sprout in the spring.
By throwing off the leaves, the trees prepare for winter. The fact that the leaves finally fall off protects the deciduous trees from drying out or freezing in winter. The trunk of the tree consists partly of water. The leaves pull it up from the roots. In winter the trees cannot absorb water as well as in summer, because the ground often freezes. With leaves, however, they would still give off water – and gradually dry out or freeze because of the frost. In winter the evaporation is reduced and the tree reduces its moisture in the trunk to a minimum.
The deciduous tree with its leaf dress, which renews itself annually, is above all a symbol of the new conquering of rebirth, of life, of resurrection. The leaves fall but the tree still stands…
We all have winter moments in life. That is an immutable reality. As much as we fight to be happy and strive to make dreams come true, there are negative times, crisis. The autumns come, the harsh and cold winters freeze all. A day will come when the tree will have no single leaf left. The environment is so negative that all its joy has fallen.
The leaves fall, but a strong tree will still stand because it has strong roots. It knows that tomorrow it will be warm, the spring with the sunshine will return and it will recover its vitality and the colour of new life. The green vegetation will once again populate its branches. The happy times will return. The leaves fall but the tree still stands…
The readings of the Mass on this 5th Sunday of Lent are full of this great hope, which says to us that God has the power to give us new life. In the first reading, from the book of the prophet Ezekiel, we hear these words: “I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil.” The second reading, from the letter to the Romans, speaks also about this hope: “and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.” The Gospel tell us about the resurrection of Lazarus, and it includes a little detail that I would like to mention because it is very important>
The Gospel tells that Jesus wept in front of the grave of his friend Lazarus.
In Greek mythology there is a figure named Chiron who is the archetype of the Wounded Healer (a term created by famous psychologist Carl Jung). Chiron was accidentally wounded by one of Hercules’ arrows. Since he was immortal, this caused him eternal torment. In his search for his own cure, he discovered how to heal others. By teaching others the healing arts, he found a way to alleviate his own pain.
Carl Jung said: ¨The doctor is only effective when he is affected himself. Only the wounded healer heals. ”The pain and problems that one ultimately overcomes are the source of great wisdom and healing power for others.”
There is a difference between being medicated and being healed. Medicine is a science, but healing is an art, a vocation. Science comes from the mind, art and vocation come from the heart. The energy of healing flows when hearts connect. The Wounded Healer understands what the patient feels, because he has suffered the same. The Healer’s experience is what makes him a brother to the patient, rather than his teacher. This causes a change of perspective, and because he has learned through experience, the Healer is capable of empathy rather than just sympathy. When we talk about empathy, we are referring to a person’s ability, the one which helps him to put himself in another person’s emotional situation because he himself has had a similar experience.
All of us go through trials in our lives: physical illness and pain, mental confusion, emotional trauma, spiritual suffering. Today’s Gospel shows us Jesus weeping. It would be a false image of Jesus to imagine him as a superman, impassive, stoic, above all feelings of pain or fear, of doubt or crisis. For the evangelist John, Jesus is the Wounded Healer who is the source of healing and life for others. We have a mediator, a saviour, who is not strange to our history, who knows how to understand our worst moments and our experiences of pain, doubt and exhaustion. He has experienced it in his own body. Especially on the cross: once the tree of death which became for us the tree of life…
During the time I was parish priest in Austria, a choir used to sing every year in the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday a hymn that has remained graved in my memory. Especially this verse:
“Whoever sings about love cannot remain silent about the cross.
He must go down himself into the grave with Jesus.
Because only when our hands and pride wither
God can use his power to create new life for us.”