Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for Passion Sunday

Readings: Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Mt 26:14-27:66

This feast of Passion Sunday and the reading of the Passion account remembers and anticipates a sudden change in the lives of Jesus and his disciples. How thrilling and joyous was that triumphal entry into Jerusalem! How deeply moving was that intimate supper that Jesus celebrated with his closest followers! After the meal they went out into the night singing, as was Jewish custom, the Hallel Psalms (##115-118) and the Great Hallel (#136): "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love is eternal. Give thanks to the God of Gods; His love is eternal." Joyous with the meal, the celebration and the wine they nodded off in the garden while Jesus prayed. Then in a flash the soldiers arrived, Jesus is arrested, and the disciples scatter and run away in fear. The unthinkable had happened. Everything changed in that moment. Passion Sunday reminds us of that change as we read the Passion account. How quickly the joyous entry into Jerusalem has suddenly become tragedy.

Holy Week plays out symbolically the last weeks of Jesus’ life. Each day in Holy Week is connected to some event that prepared for Jesus’ death and burial in those earlier days. As the week moves along we will want to focus on those events as part of our common liturgical lectio.

That’s what Holy Week is for a monastic community—a common liturgical lectio. We together are reading not a book, but a series of liturgical actions—the washing of the feet, the sharing of a supper, the reading of the Passion account. With each event we reflect on that event for its significance for our own spiritual lives. This is the story of our faith, indeed of our salvation, acted out.

This Passion Sunday we began with that joyful outdoor procession around the Mary circle and into the Church—liturgically expressing the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem. But soon we were listening to the account of the Passion—the beginning of the painful end of Jesus life. These remind us that we have our great moments of joy and happiness in life, but we will also have our own crosses. Let’s pray for a moment on that.

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