Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hosanna in the Highest

At every Mass, we repeat the words of the crowds gathered in Jerusalem, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest.”  We call to mind this glorious day, Jesus’ triumphant march into Jerusalem.  On this day, Jesus rides into Jerusalem like a king.  He rides upon a donkey.  The crowds throw their cloaks down before Him, lest He walk on dirt.  They wave palms in the air, hailing Him as the blessed king, the one who will redeem Israel.  The whole world was bursting out with joy, so much that if the crowds did not express it, the stones would should for joy.

Jesus enters Jerusalem as God’s appointed King and High Priest.  He is counted as one of us by His humanity, yet by the dignity of His Divine Person He is rightfully represents us all before His Father as the head of the human race.  For "Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

On behalf of His people, He takes upon Himself the full weight of human sin: its guilt and pain.  He goes so far as to accept death and death on a cross, a mark being accursed.  Our king humbles Himself in a grand liturgy, a work on behalf of His people.  The suffering He takes upon Himself becomes an act of perfect love never before seen in humanity.  This love is a cry on behalf of His people for mercy.  It pierces the Heavens into the Heavenly Sanctuary to our Father.  Seeing such faithful love from broken humanity, the Father responds in love in return pouring out His mercy on mankind, forgiving their sins and giving them the power to be children of God.

See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God! (1 Jn 3:1).  As children, we are called to participate in the life of Jesus His Son.  Every time we gather for Mass, we recall Jesus’ procession as we cry out Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  The whole Pascal mystery from Jesus’ death to His resurrection is made present in the Liturgy when the whole body of Christ gathers to re-present Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.  On the Church’s altars we offer Jesus’ perfect love and obedience to the Father.  The one Sacrifice which was offered once and for all is made present on the Church’s altar so that we may join with Mary and John at the foot of the Cross.  We can stand in horror of sin fully revealed and in amazement at Christ’s love.  We stand, offering our own lives to the Father.  We bring Him all our prayers, all our good deeds, and all of our sufferings and join them to the passion of Christ in thanksgiving to the Father. As representatives of humanity, sharing in Christ’s priesthood and heirs to the Father’s kingdom, we also offer a liturgy, a work on behalf of the people.  We cry out to the Lord in love, begging Him to save the whole world.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

That They Might Announce my Praise

“I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.”  Here is a curious passage.  A desert is a place without water.  Yet the Lord places water in the desert.  A wasteland is a place without rivers.  It is a waste and not able to be farmed our used by human persons.  Yet, the Lord places rivers in the wasteland.  This is about the great mystery of human suffering.

How can it be that in this world “our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing?”  Are we not held captive by the powers of sin and death?  When we wish to do good, do we not find ourselves lazy and slothful?  When we want to pray, we find ourselves too busy.  When we want to be chaste, we find ourselves lusting.  When want to be humble, we find ourselves looming with pride.  What are we to do?

“Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.”  Those who sorrow at their captivity to sin will break forth in joy and praise when set free.  Jesus is most near to those who are suffering the weight of their sin.  By His crucifixion, He has taken those sufferings into his very own substance.  Our sufferings draw Him near to us.  And if Jesus swallows our sufferings into Himself, then He is generous enough to give instead an abundance of Life.  He exchanges our suffering and our death for His joy and His life.  Because Jesus is near us and gives us our life back, how could we not shout out to the Lord, lifting up a Holy Eucharist?

This is why Jesus instructs us, “take up your cross every day and follow me” and St. Paul says, “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”  Again Paul says in this morning’s readings, “For His sake, I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish.”  In the Lord, there is every goodness.  Every good finds it source in Jesus.  He is the plan of all that is good in the world.  For the passion of Jesus, Paul counts everything else as rubbish.  For St. Paul, Jesus is the pearl of great price.  He is the friend above all friends whom Paul refuses to live without.

It is because of this great goodness found in Jesus that Paul tirelessly announces the Gospel and the praises of Jesus Christ.  The Gospel is the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins and the bestowal of life.  Just look at the Gospel reading for Sunday.  Here, a woman about to be killed for her trespasses, held captive by sin and death finds forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  He says “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”  

How much do you think the woman rejoiced?  This woman came to understand the meaning of the words, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Certainly, she now went forth to proclaim Jesus and His mercy to all who had an ear.  Undoubtedly, she shouted to the world, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”  Now go and do likewise.