Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bookends: Palm Sunday & The Passion of Christ

Palm Sunday, Octavio Ocampo
NOTE on the Art: This unusual artwork, categorized by some as surrealism, is the work of Octavio Ocampo, a Mexican artist trained at the Fine Art Institute, Mexico City and the San Francisco Art Institute. He paints in what has been described as "the metamorphic style - using a technique of superimposing and juxtaposing realistic and figurative details within the images that he creates." I discovered his work while on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Alabama (EWTN). He has a wonderful painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe called the Miracle of Roses that we purchased in Alabama and have over our fire place. Click on the image to enlarge it to see all the details.

Gospel Bookends
I have always found the Palm Sunday Mass to be an interesting one for it is rightly also called Passion Sunday and within this unique Liturgy we see two Gospel bookends that represent our treatment of Christ. We begin the Mass with a the Gospel reading done from the back of the Church. This passage describes the joyous scene as Jesus enters Jerusalem on a colt/donkey and the people cheering him on with palms. This is followed by the distribution of the palms and on to the regular part of the Liturgy. We conclude the Liturgy of the Word with a (long) Gospel reading detailing the passion of Christ, ending with His death on the cross. All of this is done in one Mass, in a matter of minutes.

The juxtaposition of these two Gospel scenes represent our relationship with Christ.  When our prayer lives are going well. when we are more aware of the presence of God, when our lives reflect the cardinal virtues of faith, hope and charity then we are like those who raised their palms to glorify God. When we turn our backs on God, when we turn our back on our fellow man then we are like the one's who cried out "Crucify him!"

A Saint's Reflection
St. Josemaria explained in one of his homilies that the violence that we need to demonstrate in our lives is one against our own weaknessess:
We read today the joyful words: “The sons of the Hebrews, raising olive branches, went out to meet the Lord, crying out, Glory in high heaven.”
This acclamation reminds us of how Jesus was greeted at his birth in Bethlehem. As Jesus moved off, St Luke tells us, “people spread their cloaks in the road, and now, as he was approaching the downward slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole group of disciples joyfully began to praise God at the top of their voices for all the miracles they had seen. They cried out: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord, peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven.” (…)
On this Palm Sunday, when our Lord begins the week which is so decisive for our salvation, let us put aside the more superficial aspects of the question and go right to the core, to what is really important. Look: what we have to try to do is to get to heaven. If we don’t, nothing is worth while. Faithfulness to Christ’s doctrine is absolutely essential to our getting to heaven. To be faithful it is absolutely essential to strive doggedly against anything that blocks our way to eternal happiness. (…)
A Christian can rest completely assured that if he wants to fight, God will take him by the right hand, as we read in today’s Mass. It is Jesus the king of peace who says on entering Jerusalem astride a miserable donkey: “The kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm.” This violence is not directed against others. It is a violence used to fight your own weaknesses and miseries, a fortitude which prevents you from camouflaging your own infidelities, a boldness to own up to the faith even when the environment is hostile. (Christ is passing by, 73-83)