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Bible Reflections View Comments

Jesus Went There Before Us
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, March 24, 2013
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We begin the liturgy with Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The citizens welcome him with palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David.” It seems to be his finest hour, the popular recognition of who he is as the long-awaited Messiah. But we know from elsewhere in the Gospels that the popular idea of the Messiah was not the role that Jesus was destined to fill. All too soon the fickle crowds will be turned by some of their leaders to condemn this very person they greet so enthusiastically. The disciples’ heads must have been spinning at the sudden reversal of fortune.

Our own liturgy moves quickly from the procession with palms into the reading of the Passion. This is not a dramatic recreation of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem so much as it is an acknowledgment of our own shifting back and forth between faith and doubt, certainty and disbelief, triumph and tragedy.

Reflecting on this movement from triumph to tragedy to the ultimate victory during Holy Week can help us understand the way the Paschal Mystery manifests itself in our own lives. As members of the body of Christ, we, too, experience the death and resurrection that Jesus did. We have all had experiences of life changing in the blink of an eye, events leaving us gasping for breath and searching for meaning.

We can begin to find that meaning in the awareness that everything in our lives—the heights of joy and triumph, the depths of suffering and death—is united with the life of Christ. He experienced what we experience and transformed it through his death and resurrection. It doesn’t make it any easier while we’re going through it, but it does give us something to hang on to, something that can sustain us in the chaos.

St. Luke gives us many memorable scenes unique to his account of the Passion. Only from Luke do we hear the story of the two thieves crucified with Jesus, men who knew that they deserved this punishment—and who knew, too, that this man between them did not. In the depths of his despair, the one we know as Dismas, the good thief, asks Jesus, “Remember me when you enter into your kingdom.” Jesus promises him, “This day you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke also tells us that Jesus says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” We might find comfort in these words when we find ourselves acting out of anger or frustration and hurting those we love.

We celebrate these feasts every year as a reminder that Jesus knows what we’re going through because he went through it before us. Enter into Holy Week in a spirit of prayer. Pay attention to the Scriptures. Often our own problems are mirrored in the events of Jesus’s Passion. Think about some of the less-emphasized stations of the cross (Jesus is rejected. Jesus falls for the second time.) and reflect on how you have experienced these events.

Jesus’s last words in Luke’s passion are, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” These words are perhaps our best response to the difficult times in our lives. We are forever in God’s hands. Knowing this in the depths of our beings gives us all the assurance we need. It doesn’t make the bad times go away, but it does promise that the darkness will not triumph.


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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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