The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians. (4:4-9) and the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (12:1-18)
I want to be really straightforward with you and share my unfiltered feelings. I am not happy that we are not together. I am quite sad because you are not here to celebrate this holy feast together. I miss your faces, your smiles, your presence. The church is full of angels and saints every time we pray together, but it is lacking the fullness that is usually part of our celebration of Palm Sunday and leading into Holy Week. It is ok to be sad. It is ok to come to terms with this new situation that we have not faced before. But, we have to allow this sadness that we have to push us closer to our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. We have to allow this time to fuel us and help us so that God willing, one day, when the doors of the church are open to all, we will fill this church to capacity.
The truth is that many of us were taking our church lives very casually. Now we feel the pain of being separated from one another, from this place that is full of the grace of God, from the sacraments, from the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus. I hope that we will never forget this time, because these experiences can be a powerful teacher and motivator for each of us. There are important things, people, and places that we take for granted until we don’t have them anymore. Perhaps one benefit of all of this is that God has opened our eyes to what is really important.
In the midst of all of this, in our sadness, we hear these words in today’s epistle as St. Paul writes “Brethren, rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance (patience). The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The God we believe in is a personal God, who wants to know us personally.If He did not want to be known personally, He would have stayed in the heavens, far away from us. But He wanted to know us and be known by us. Take this time to really give your life to God. Dedicate time to getting to know Him every day. Did you hear about how Mary came and wipedthe feet of the Lord with her own hair? That was a symbol of her love and dedication to God. Each one of us is called to find ourown ways to show our love for God, through acts of service for others and especially in our private times of prayer. We have to be like Mary and get on the knees of our heart and come to the feet of Christ from the depth of our hearts. Not just repeating vain words, but speaking from our hearts, with some pain of heart. This makes for good prayers…and good prayer, genuine prayer, brings us past anxiety to a place of peace.
St. Paulreminds usthat there is nothing to be anxious about. If you watch too much news, you would think otherwise. But thank God that we don’t see the world like everyone else. Where others see tragedy, we have hope. Where others see suffering and begin to doubt, we trust God even more. Where others see only death, we see the potential fornew life with Christ and His saints. Why is this true? Because when we are closely connected to God, we have peace and according to St.Paul, this peace surpasses all understanding. Meaning, it defies explanation completely. It is like God, because the source of the peace is in God!
Why do we have peace? What gives a Christian such a tremendously different approach to life and to every aspect, and struggle of life? It is this: That God became a man and dwelt among us. Today we celebrate His entrance into the holy city of Jerusalem. Why? Was He coming to the city to be celebrated and honored and to have a great party with the people? No. Far from it. He was preparing to fulfill His mission. He was following the will of His Father and like a good shepherd, he was preparing to lay down His life for us, the sheep. So we celebrate this festive entrance of the Lord entering into the city on a donkey, being cheered and adored because of the great miracle that He had performed just a day earlier, when He raised Lazarus from the dead. But the festive mood would change quickly as the week progressed, and the Lord knew this quite well.
Let us not be like the people who celebrated the coming of Christ one day and then turned on Him and betrayed Him soon after. How do we betray Christ? We betray Him when we ignore Him, when we do not pray. We betray Him when we do not give thanks for all of the good things in our life. We betray Him especially when we choose to sin and not to obey His teachings and commandments.Yet on Palm Sunday Our Lord still allowed them to celebrate because although they did not know it, they were celebrating their savior and their freedom through this savior.
Little did they know that their celebration would indeed be fulfilled in His betrayal and suffering and crucifixion and death. These were the instruments of their salvation. They celebrated the raising of Lazarus from the dead, but in fact, the Lord was about to do something much greater by offering all of humanity a chance to partake in His resurrection.
The Son of God, the God-man, Jesus Christ, suffered and died a human death that we might be raised in glory and live a divine life, free from slavery to death and sin. A life that is lived without fear and without anxiety, but in complete and profound peace. This is the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, of which St. Paul spoke. When we start torealize how much God loves us, when we realize what He has accomplished for us and what He would like to share with us, we cannot really be sad or worried about anything. A life that is lived in obedience to the teachings of Christ. A life where we die to our sinful passions and desires. This is a life full of joy and true celebration. A life that contains no anxiety, only tremendous gratitude and peace. This is His gift to us, out of His love for each of us.
May we keep all of this in mind as we walk through Holy Week with Christ, having gratitude and joy for what He is doing and has already done in our lives. To Him alone be glory forever AMEN.