Last Sunday,  the Church around the world will celebrated Palm Sunday beginning the Holy Week during which we remembered Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, where he was welcomed with shouts of love only to be killed amid shouts of hate seven days later.

Today, we again pause our journey through the Psalms of Ascent to begin our reflection on the coming week’s solemnity. Today’s word of encouragement and gentle challenge comes from part of the message of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem as recorded by St. John.

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

The next day, the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out; “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel…”

The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

Here’s Your Word of Encouragement: During the years of Jesus’ earthly ministry, many cultures honored important people in public by placing palm branches in their walking path as a sign of respect. The act had a practical purpose of helping the individual being honored to keep their feet free from mud or dust from the road. Romans did this to honor kings and generals parading though town after major victories. In today’s text, the Jewish people cheering for Jesus as He entered the Holy City did this for Him because they wanted to honor Him as the military leader they hoped would set them free from Roman rule.

But that’s not the kind of king Jesus said he was in His First Coming. Jesus was the king who came to set His people free from their bondage to sins like self-worship and hate. Jesus did not come to crush the Romans who were occupying sacred land given to the Jews by God. He came to crush the kind of idolatry of self that was occupying their own hearts and the souls of their leaders. He came to put to death the kind of greed that made them seek to kill Jesus and a man like Lazarus who was an “inconvenient” living witness to God’s divine power revealed in Christ rather than themselves.

Today, I invite to rejoice because your savior is near. If you are in need of a fresh start as Spring is about to truly dawn upon us all, I promise you that if you reach out to Jesus by faith with thanksgiving and real repentance, He will answer your prayers and make His healing presence known to you.

Here’s Your Gentle Challenge: Today’s Scripture painfully reminds us that we, who hail Jesus as king one moment; may in the next, deny him, even joining with the crowd in shouting; “Crucify him!”

Will you let Jesus put to death any kind of emotion in you that resembles His opposition in today’s text?  Would you let the Lord work in your spirit this Holy Week to put to death any kind of self-interest that puts your own gain or maintenance of temporary power above the genuine wellbeing of any other human being? Will you also join me in longing to worship Jesus as He is, not as we want Him to be, embracing every good thing He has for us along with moments of struggle that draw us closer to Him?

As we recall the passion of our Lord this week, Let us go with Jesus in faith and love; so that, united with Him in His sufferings, we may also share His risen life in this world and in the world to come.

In darkness and in light, in trouble and in joy, help us, O Lord, to trust your love, to seek your purpose, and to praise your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Blessing of God Almighty; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always.

Fr. Joe
Rev. Joseph Calandra, Jr., M.A.
Director of Chaplaincy
Guardian Angels Senior Services