Saturday, April 16, 2011

Palm Sunday Reflections

It is my sincere hope that the season of Lent has brought you time for meaningful reflection and prayer as you look ahead to the joy of Easter.  I'd like to begin by sharing this Sunday's reading from the Gospel of Matthew.

When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem
and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives,
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
“Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately you will find an ass tethered,
and a colt with her.
Untie them and bring them here to me.
And if anyone should say anything to you, reply,
‘The master has need of them.’
Then he will send them at once.”
This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet
might be fulfilled:Say to daughter Zion,
“Behold, your king comes to you,
meek and riding on an ass,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them.
They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them,
and he sat upon them.
The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road,
while others cut branches from the trees
and strewed them on the road.
The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying:
Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest.”
And when he entered Jerusalem
the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?”
And the crowds replied,
“This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Amidst all the hectic activity and planning for next week's Easter celebration, it's essential to pause and reflect upon what Easter brings each of us.  The most Holy Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross gives us the awe-inspiring gift of eternal salvation, if we stand with Christ.  This grace is not something we've earned, but, if the grace of Christ exists within us, our outward behavior and actions will (imperfectly) reflect His heavenly light. 

Lent is a particularly wonderful time to strengthen our prayer life.  Even if it's just a few minutes on some days, I encourage you to find that niche of time every day that you can devote to prayer and reading of His Word.  When prayer life is improved (along with regular Mass attendance and partaking of the Sacraments), your spiritual strength through Him who is within you will be much better equipped to successfully engage those daily struggles and temptations.  Without a strong prayer life, you're denying yourself a relationship with your Creator.  And as Saint Jerome said concerning reading of the Bible, "Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ."

It's a silly analogy in many ways...but take a look at picture accompanying this blog post.  I photographed this inquisitive red fox last month on the west side of San Juan Island in Washington State.  I had seen him in the distance and stopped the van on a narrow island road to catch the photos.  To my surprise, he just began ambling towards us as soon as I stopped.  (I suspect drivers sometimes give handouts of tasty morsels.)  What I find interesting is the degree to which the fox's paws are covered with mud and dirt.  It struck me that sin clings to us in a similar way if we fail to seek forgiveness. (Pilgrim's Progress use of the heavy back on Christian's back is a much better illustration.)  

Furthermore, if we fail to make the effort to improve ourselves, to strengthen our hearts against evil, then we are like a hunted animal returning time and again to the place where he knows there is peril lying in wait.  Trust in God!  

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