Sunday 14 April 2019: Palm Sunday
A Spiritual ‘Tipping Point’
Isaiah 50:4-9; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 19:28-40
By Paul Quin
Roman Catholic Permanent Deacon at Our Lady & St Michaels, Garston, Watford
Context: mostly middle class Roman Catholic parish. Largely families but some older people. Sung Sunday mass with procession from parish centre into the Church
Aim: to encourage the congregation to ‘identify’ their own journey of life with that of Christ and to see Palm Sunday as a real ‘spiritual’ tipping point
I have a picture on my wall at home, it’s kind of a favourite really, which was bought for me a few years ago by a good friend of mine and it has a quote next to the image that begins with the words ‘life is a journey.’. Although I have had the picture for a while now, I still look at it often and see the same words time and time again … ‘Life is a journey.’
Of course, there is nothing ‘ground breaking’ about this phrase, I am sure we have all heard it before many times, in fact you could call it a ‘cliché.’ But, no matter how familiar we may be with this phrase, it is still something that we can identify with, because, I guess for each of us, we all have a sense that we are moving from one destination to another. We were all born in a certain place and at a certain time. We all grow older year by year and, eventually our journey through life will end at a certain time and in a certain place. We all share this experience – no one is exempt!
So, we are, each of us, familiar with this concept that our lives are a ‘journey.’ We also know, especially those of us who are a little older, that life is full of ‘ups’ and ‘downs.’ Nevertheless, through all of this, we each of us have a certain perception of what this journey of life might be like.
But then there are moments in life, sometimes big events, sometimes small events, those unexpected moments that change or challenge our perception of what life’s journey is all about. What a blessing these moments can be!
This morning, we have already been on a short journey as we processed from the parish centre, through the car park and into our church, as we do every year as we celebrate the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem, the climactic point of his earthly ministry.
This is a crucial moment in terms of Christ’s earthly ministry, it could be described as a ‘fulcrum’ or point of no return. We heard in our first gospel reading from Luke today, the description of this ‘moment’, this point on the journey, as Christ enters the city of Jerusalem to rejoicing from His disciples ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ Their perception of this moment is, of course, one of Joy, one of triumph.
But what lies ahead beyond this moment? Jesus knew what lay ahead for Him in Jerusalem, the disciples had an awareness of what may lie ahead, we of course know the story all too well, we know exactly what lay ahead for Jesus in Jerusalem. What lay ahead for Jesus was all the events of Holy Week and ultimately His crucifixion.
Like the disciples, we too are called to take this ‘journey’ with Jesus, we are called to pass through this ‘spiritual’ point of no return. So, as we pass over the ‘threshold’ from Lent, our time of preparation, into Holy Week, perhaps a good question to ponder is ‘where am I in all of this?’ Or, perhaps more importantly, ‘how can I enter into this moment more fully?’
St Paul gives us a real ‘key’ to help us in answering some of this in our second reading from Philippians, as he speaks to us of Christ’s humility. Jesus knew what lay ahead for Him in Jerusalem, He knew what lay ahead for Him through His earthly ministry and yet, as St Paul tells us ‘Jesus did not cling to His equality with God,’ but rather ‘emptied Himself to assume the condition of a slave.’ In other words, knowing His destiny, Jesus enters Jerusalem with total humility, He gives away everything. He accepts what is ahead -death on a cross.
So how can we enter into this moment more fully? How can we enter Holy Week and truly join Jesus on the ‘journey’? Paul tells us clearly ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus!’ In other words, this is all about our ‘perception’ of the ‘journey’, it’s all about our ‘mind-set.’
Fundamentally, as Christians, we are called to conform ourselves more and more to the One we follow, this One who is the ‘Alpha’ and the ‘Omega’, the beginning and the end of the ‘journey.’ As we enter Holy Week then, let us conform ourselves to Jesus who entered Jerusalem with total humility, who entered and gave everything, ‘even to accepting death, death on a cross.’
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