Sunday, 3/28/2021, Palm Sunday
Gospel at the Blessing of the Palms
Gospel Commentary: Mark 11:1-10
Grant Your Salvation
When Jesus and His disciples came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples to find a tethered colt on which no one had ever sat. Jesus needed the colt to fulfill the prophecies made in Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9 which says that our king, who is a just savior, would come meek and riding an ass.
Jesus came into the world meek and in humble surroundings born in a stable and placed in a manger. As He began to prepare Himself for His Passion, Jesus continued to portray great humility. The humility of Jesus teaches us that there is no place for pride with God. If the Son can be so humble, then surely, we, who are His creation and much less than He, must also, be, humble if we are to call ourselves His followers.
Luke tells us in his Gospel, Luke 19:28-30, that when Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, some Pharisees in the crowd told Jesus to rebuke His disciples. They said this because they did not want to see Jesus receiving praise but a multitude of His disciples and people who were waiting shouted praise for all of the mighty deeds that they had seen done by Jesus. The crowds cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” Jesus said to the Pharisees, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”
When we consider the phrase, “Hosanna to God in the Highest,” we sometimes misinterpret its meaning. We think of it as being a phrase which gives praise and glory to God and in a sense; that is true. But the word “hosanna” means grant your salvation. Therefore, when we say, “Hosanna to God in the Highest,” we are actually admitting to the fact that we owe our salvation to the same God who created us and we are asking God for salvation.
In His remark to the Pharisees, Jesus did not simply tell them that He was not going to tell the people to shut up. Jesus was telling the Pharisees that there was absolutely nothing they could do to stop God from receiving His praise from those who believed in Him. Jesus was telling the wicked and everyone who seeks to persecute God and His Church, past, present and future, that there is nothing they can do to stop God from receiving His praise or performing His mighty deeds and Jesus was giving fair warning that there was nothing that they could do to stop Him from carrying out His Father’s wishes.
God giving His Son for our salvation not only proves His love for us, but it also proves how committed He is to us. What Christ did for us proves that God will stop at nothing to save us from the forces of evil so that we can join Him in the Kingdom.
The palms which we take home are a sacramental which should remind us all through the year of this day which is the beginning of Passion Week. They should not simply become a decorative ornament. Every time we look at our palms, we should be reminded of the events which take place this week. Our palms should be daily reminders for us that Our God will stop at nothing to have us join Him in the Kingdom of Heaven. Indeed, our palms should remind us to say, “Thank you God!”
There Is No Shame
First Reading Commentary: Isaiah 50:4-7
Isaiah proclaims that God has given him a well-trained tongue so that he can speak to the weary and rouse them. Isaiah also proclaims that he will not be stopped and that he shall not be put to shame because God is his help.
Anytime we believe in something, we want everyone to know. It can be anything. It does not have to be religious. Whatever it is, we want to share the reasons why we are so excited about our belief. We want others to get on board with it. But when it comes to religion, some of us get skittish and understandably so. In today’s society, it is not socially acceptable to bring up religion in a conversation especially with someone we don’t know. Not only that, but, there is so much divisiveness in our society and so much violence associated with it, that it might be safer to just keep things to oneself.
Well today, we learn from Isaiah that we should not be ashamed. This is one thing that we can be proud of and that pride becomes a blessing and not a sin. In fact, if we can’t be a witness and testify to our religion, we must not really believe in it or we are not totally committed to it. There are other things that we are proud of and there is no harm in letting people know. An example is a parent’s pride for their children’s accomplishments. So why can't we be proud of our religion?
Now I am not saying that we should be overbearing or that we should all be standing out on street corners. The best and strongest method that anyone can use to show their faith is to live by what their faith teaches. One can say that they are a believer a million times but if they do not act like it, the words mean nothing and they are acting just like the Pharisees.
But if we truly believe, we should never shy away from an opportunity of sharing our faith because we are called to evangelize and our God is an awesome God! When we find ourselves feeling skittish, we should say what Isaiah said, “The Lord God is my help…I shall not be put to shame.” When we feel skittish, it is because the evil one is trying his best to make us feel shame in our faith.
We can’t be put to shame because there is no shame in sharing God’s Word and there is no shame in giving God His praise and glory. That is why in Luke 19:40, Jesus said to the Pharisees about the people crying out, “Hosanna,” “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out.”
Jesus Christ Is Lord
Second Reading Commentary: Philippians 2:6-11
The words are simple, but St. Paul tells us that Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. That is because the Trinity is a mystery that the human mind is not capable of completely understanding. Instead, The Father sent the Son to us so that He could become one of us and Jesus emptied Himself and came to us as one of us with complete humility.
The humility of Jesus was one of the things which made it so difficult for some people of His time to accept Him for who He was. They expected a king who would be mighty in a worldly way possessing extreme wealth and ruling a great nation that would overtake its enemies—the enemies of the Jews. They were trying to see God in a worldly way.
But Jesus came as the Godly King that He is, teaching that true wealth was not of this world, but in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus taught us that the true enemies were those who followed the evil one and that they would be the ones who would be defeated by being denied the Kingdom.
St. Paul reminds us that because of the Son’s total obedience to the Father, the Son was greatly exalted and that to the name of Jesus, “every knee should bend and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
This is why Catholics bow their heads when they hear or speak the name of Jesus. This is one reason why, believing that it contains the living body of Christ, Catholics bow to the tabernacle in church. This is why Catholicism accepts Christ for everything He said and everything He did which is sometimes referred to as the fullness of the Catholic Faith.
Everything that Catholics believe in and everything that Catholics do in church; has its roots in Scripture. Catholics exercise all seven sacraments because Christ instituted them and/or exercised them Himself. Christians outside of Catholicism do not believe everything that Catholics do. However, devout Catholics and all devout Christians alike, believe what they believe because Jesus Christ is Lord—no one else.
Shame...An Expensive Proposition
Gospel Commentary: The Passion of Christ proclaimed on Palm Sunday
The Gospel of the Passion of Christ is accounted for by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. However, each writer has a slightly different account and one must read all four Gospels to get the whole story. Today’s Gospel is according to Mark. In my commentary for Good Friday, I will take an in depth look at all four Gospels. Today I wish to concentrate on Jesus being betrayed by Judas.
Ever think about how much your faith is worth to you? Can we really put a price tag on another human life? But there are people that do and Judas betrayed Jesus for just thirty pieces of silver.
When Jesus told His disciples that He would be betrayed by one of them, they became deeply distressed and said to each other and to Jesus, “Surely it is not I, Lord.” Jesus told them that He would go as it was written of Him and He said, “…woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas questioned, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
The response that Jesus gave to Judas makes me wonder if Judas ever did believe in Jesus. If he did, Judas would have known that Jesus knew exactly what he was planning to do and moreover, he would not have betrayed Jesus in the first place. He certainly would have known better than to hide his guilt.
But Judas was blind as a result of having been taken over by the evil one and he was completely consumed with the deadly sins of pride and greed. The question of denial by Judas proves that he was also a liar. That is the way that sin works. You commit one sin and you have to commit another sin to cover up the first one. Then you have to commit another sin to cover up that one and so on and so on. There is no end to the trend.
How often do we make the mistake of Judas? That is to say, how often do we commit our sins without thinking first, failing to take into account the fact that Jesus knows what we are doing and why we are doing it before we commit the act? We get so caught up in the selfishness of the moment that we fail to think or just don’t care and that is when the evil one really does his dirty work the best.
To betray someone is bad enough but Judas betrayed Christ who is God. If anyone who believes in God were asked if they would ever do such a thing, they would say something like, surely not I. But do we? Okay, none of us are going to do what Judas did but for those of us who are believers, anytime we commit a sin, and we all do, we go against the Will of God and thereby, commit an act of betrayal.
I am sure that there are a lot of good people at the top of our economic society who are not greedy at all. They just happen to be blessed. But for those people, like corporate executives who at the stroke of a pen, take jobs away from people who need them just so that they (the executives) can have more money in their pockets, commit a sin of greed. I’m only talking about the executives who take such action strictly for their own personal gain which is a betrayal to their employees.
And what about those who are taking advantage of the pandemic? That does not mean that anyone with a business who is blessed to maintain a profit during these difficult times is greedy. But those who use the pandemic to profit are guilty of greed. And those who can afford to pay their bills but refuse to pay them because they can get away with it because creditors are not enforcing collections and because of moratoriums are just as bad if not worse.
Or what about our law makers, who cannot seem to justify and refuse to support legislation, that will lead to keeping guns that serve no purpose in sport but only serve to take human life, off of our streets. Instead of realizing the fact that the life given to us by God is priceless, they hide behind the constitution because of the financial bullying of a single organization. Truly sad because they don't realize that they betray themselves as much as everyone else and worse yet, they are responsible for each and every life lost by the use of a weapon of war which as been made legal by their legislation.
Or what about our law makers who refuse to support legislation that will benefit those in need. They say that it is too expensive, but they don’t say that about legislation that supports their agenda when it puts money into the pockets of the rich. They proclaim pro-life but they don’t get it. They don’t realize and, many of them don’t care, that to be pro-life for real, one must care about and be willing to help those in need whatever the cost. Remember, Jesus told us that if we fail to do for the least among us, we fail to do for Him. If you take advantage of someone else, which is a betrayal, you also betray Christ. Capitol Hill is full of those who call themselves Christians who need to study their bibles and take a hard look within.
When Judas realized that Jesus had been condemned, he regretted what he had done. He went to the chief priests and scribes and attempted to return the thirty pieces of silver saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They refused the silver saying, “What is that to us?” So, Judas threw the money into the temple and went out and hung himself.
Judas had remorse for his crime but notice that he said that he had betrayed innocent blood. He did not admit to betraying the Son of Man. In spite of his remorse, Judas was still blinded and influenced enough by the devil to not testify to the completeness of his sin by not proclaiming just who it was that he had betrayed.
But the full impact of the devil’s influence on Judas came out in how he reacted to the chief priests and scribes who refused to take the silver back. I am talking about Judas committing suicide.
Did Judas commit suicide because of remorse? If you say, “yes,” you might be able to rationalize in your own mind what Judas had done. But there are major problems with this thinking. God gives life and it is His to take away—not ours even when that life is our own. Because of that, suicide is murder and violates the commandment, “Thou shall not kill,” which is a mortal sin. As a result, the taking of one’s own life would never be an acceptable form of penance in the eyes of God.
Did Judas commit suicide because of shame? Bingo! That’s the way that the devil works. He entices us with his temptations and persuades us to commit sin and then he torments us and loads us down with so much shame that we self-destruct. That is exactly what Judas did by committing suicide.
If you have ever seen the movie, The Passion of the Christ, you may remember that in the scene where Judas commits suicide, he is tormented by demons who; torment him to the point of his not being able to stand it anymore. That torment led to Judas hanging himself.
What we learn from Judas is that the devil is not satisfied with coercing us into sin—he wants us to completely destroy ourselves with sin. Why? Because the devil is out to destroy all that is good and sin by itself will not destroy us because God is all merciful and all forgiving. Therefore, the only way for the devil to defeat us with sin is to torment us into shame so that we punish ourselves until we self-destruct.
The Father’s solution to the devil’s torment is the sending of the Son who nailed sin to the cross and defeated the death of sin with His Glorious Resurrection. But, in order to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness for the sins which we commit in this life, we must confess, repent and do penance. Our liturgy throughout Lent reminds us of that and that is why devout Catholics, who should go to Confession throughout the year, make a special effort to go to Confession during Lent.
We have two options and there are no other choices. 1- We can be like Judas and allow the devil to lead us into self-destruction or 2- We can empty ourselves to God’s unending mercy and forgiveness and be with Him in heaven