Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

Today the Church marks our blessed Lord's entry into Jerusalem. Over the preceding months and years, he had developed an enormous following. According to St. Matthew's account, Jesus tells his disciples that they are going to go to Jerusalem so that he can be killed, and after doing so, he leaves Jericho with the apostles (cf. Mt 20:18 ff.) and heads toward Jerusalem. A large crowd follows him (20:29). Along the way, people start calling him Son of David (20:30), a royal title. When he gets to Jerusalem, people crowd around him and start hailing Him as king - the phrase "hosanna to" is a tip-off. "Hosanna" is an Aramaic word meaning something like "God save..." and "to" is the writer's attempt to translate an Aramaic particle that doesn't really translate, and might as well in this case be translated "the" because it really just marks the object of the sentence. "God save the Son of David!" might be the best, though untraditional, rendering. God save the King. The crowds lay down palm branches so that even the donkey he rides won't have to get its feet dirty or muddy. "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," is a reference to the Messiah whom they had been awaiting for generations. This is it. He's here: the One who will unite Israel, as it hasn't been since the time of King David and his son, and drive out the foreign oppressors, as David had. At last, Israel will have its freedom and glory! The expectation was immense. Jesus goes into the Temple area and casts out those swindlers who had overrun the public sections so they could rip off the poor masses (21:12). Those who had been forbidden by the Temple authorities from entering the Temple, the blind, the lame, the 'defective', not begin pouring in, and Jesus heals them (21:14). He begins to teach in the Temple (21:23 ff.), and his teachings are, to put it mildly, offensive to the religious authorities (ch 23). He predicts, menacingly, that the Temple itself will be destroyed (24:1). As he overturned their tables, to all appearances it seemed as though he was overturning the old order. It becomes clearer why the Jewish authorities became murderously hostile, overcoming their mutual differences in order to agree on a plot to get Jesus.

It also becomes clear why everything came crashing down so suddenly. A traitor appears unexpectedly (26:47), the night before Passover, with a large group of soldiers (26:52). They seize Jesus, who, despite being at the pinnacle of his earthly "power" doesn't even seem to care enough to fight (26:52). The new king is arrested and taken into the power of his enemies. It is hard, really, to blame the disciples for scattering (26:56). Jesus' behavior was incomprehensible. To many of us today, it is still incomprehensible.

We have as hard a time with Jesus' message of redemptive suffering as the apostles did at first. We often nod and say, "...because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world," and like Peter, promise never to abandon Jesus (26:35), but to follow him with our own crosses. And yet, at the slightest pain and suffering, how many of us flee?! I know I do, often as not.

Lord Jesus, as we enter into the commemoration of your passion, give us, we pray, the good sense to seek your Cross, and trust in your plan for the Kingdom, rather than seeking the glory and leaving the Cross to you. Amen.

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