The Greatness of God's Passionate Love

Lectio Divina: Palm Sunday, Year A

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1)    Palm branches to commemorate not for a show

     Today’s liturgy begins with the procession of palms.  The people who carry these palm branches are not the extras of a folkloric show, but the followers of Jesus commemorating Him who does not stay in the sepulcher after the defeat of the Good Friday but emerges victorious from the tomb on Easter Sunday. The triumph of today is the prelude to the Easter’s one when we celebrate the triumph of mercy. The cross did not bring Christ to death, but to life.

     We begin this holy week remembering the greatness of the passionate love of God for men. For this love he decides to go into Jerusalem riding a humble donkey to surrender to his enemies. For his triumph Jesus chooses the animal of the simple common people of the country, and most importantly it is a donkey that did not belong to him, but that he borrowed for the occasion. He does not come in a gorgeous royal carriage or on horseback as the Kings of the world but on a borrowed donkey.

     Today we are that donkey that leads Jesus into the world, reveals him and speaks of him as the late Cardinal Lustiger of Paris used to say. This is a beautiful picture because it reminds us that Jesus did not want to be led by imposing mounts but by the small and humble ones.

     Jesus is a «poor» King and, therefore, is a King of peace who chose the Cross as a throne. He is a brave King because he enters Jerusalem knowing that he will meet the Crucifixion to ripen his fruit only beyond the Cross, passing through it to enter into eternal life: «Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life «(Jn 12: 24-25).

     The cross which is a symbol of death and a symbol of a curse that is the expression of the worst of all sentences, with Christ and for Christ becomes the instrument of elevation of all mankind and the entire universe in the glory of God (cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch).

      This is the Christian paradox:  the one who orients himself to the eternal Kingdom following the instructions of Jesus Christ, is meek ​​, merciful, a peacemaker, pure in heart and thirsting for God’s justice and is able to change the history of the world in a deeper and more efficient way than the power-holders for whom nothing is more important than supremacy.

     It follows that the Cross is required. As Christians, we must not only direct our gaze to the permanent Kingdom beyond death and preach it. Together with Christ, we must live the need of the Cross for us so that for the Church and for the world  we can complete in our body what is still in ourselves lacking in the Passion of Christ ( cf. Col 1: 24).

     All those who suffer, the sick, the hopeless, the prisoners, the tortured, the oppressed and those who are poor and hopeless need to know that in their situation they are not condemned to impotence. If they join their difficult hope or the painful despair to the hope of the Son of God on the Cross, they contribute to the construction of the true Kingdom of God much more actively than the many «architects” of earthly happiness. Of course men and even more Christians must do everything possible to alleviate the physical and spiritual suffering of humanity, but they should not forget the Beatitudes of Christ on the Cross which He does not deny but confirms: » Blessed are you who are poor, for yoursis the kingdom of God.Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who now weep, for you will laugh. Blessed are you, when people hate you and when they exclude and insult you and denounce your name as evil on account the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. «(Lk 6: 20-24).

2) Jesus is truly the Son of God

     The Redeemer therefore enters today in Jerusalem joyfully to reveal on the Cross the greatness of God’s love for mankind. It is a celebration that will have its summit on Easter Sunday, the day when He will show radiantly that He is the Son of God who loves us with infinite love. Like in the temptations in the desert (Lk 4:3.6), also on the cross to whose saying «If you are the Son of God» (27, 40.43.44) the divine filiation of Jesus is at stake. A filiation denied and revealed that, for the same reason for which it is denied, displays its novelty. Everyone, even those who deny it, recognize that Jesus claimed a filiation that is expressed in the total abandonment to the will of the Father and not in competition with it. The same priests say, quoting Psalm 22: “He trusted in God» (Mt 27, 43). The Greek word used by Matthew expresses the trusting obedience, the abandonment, the attitude of the one who put his live in the hands of another. The use of the past tense speaks of stability: Jesus has always, throughout his life, placed his trust in God the Father.

     To put your life in the hands of another is the highest manifestation of dependency. In this way Jesus has expressed his consciousness of being the Son: not in research and in the affirmation of a magnitude concentrated on him, claimed in competition with the Father, but in a magnitude suspended in listening to the Father, all addressed to the Father. The filiation of Jesus refers to the Father.

     The priests then unwittingly manifest the profound truth of Jesus. They show intuition by tying together his trust in the Father and his claim to be the Son (Mt 27, 43). However they err in the way they look at the Cross.

     For them, as for us, it should be the moment when the Father must respond to the confidence of the Son, coming to his rescue. Instead, it is the moment in which the Son shows his trust in the Father. The Father will respond, but later.

     Jesus dies on the cross savoring to the bottom the abandonment. But just after his death, the perspective is reversed. The light comes only after the darkness has become thicker (Mt 27, 45).

     One must be truly holy for the cross not to be scandal and absurdity

     It is not easy to accept that God saves humanity and manifests himself as the Savior of men in the total human failure, right in the supreme humiliation, in the abandonment of the disciples, in the offence by those whom he himself had benefited and in the abandonment of the Father.

     It takes a truly great faith to be able to recognize the Son of God in Him who on the cross cries out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.» It takes great faith to recognize that just this Man is the One in whom rests all our hope: hope in a man that cries out to the abandonment of God

     Two signs towards the end of the story of the Passion according to St. Matthew testify that the death of Jesus is salvation. The first is that the veil of the temple is torn (Mt 27, 51), the second is the recognition of the divine filiation of Jesus by the pagan soldiers (Mt 27, 54).

     The judgment of the Jewish priests and of the passers-by was, therefore, false. The tearing of the veil of the temple is a response to the ridicule of the passers-by: the temple is really finished and a new perspective opens. And the recognition of the soldiers is a response to the derision of Jewish priests

     Jesus is truly the Son of God – just because he stayed on the Cross rather than coming down – and while the Jews rejected him, the pagans recognize him. We converted pagans can see what others cannot see if the heart is pure.

     And a pure heart is not only when we hear “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God,» and instinctively think of the virtue of purity. This reference is undeniable: there is a «purity of heart» which is expressed in purity of thoughts, glances and gestures in the way we live our sexuality.

     But the most direct
reference of the Beatitude to the “pure in heart» is not to uncleanness, but to the hypocrisy that is to make life a theater in which one acts, to wear a mask , to cease to be a person and become a character. To cultivate the appearance rather than the heart means to give more importance to man than to God. Hypocrisy is thus essentially a lack of faith, but it is also a lack of charity towards our neighbor because it does not recognize for him a dignity.

     According to the Gospel what decides whether or not an action is pure, is the intention that is if it is made ​​to be seen by men or to please God (cf. Mt 6:2 – 6). The pure of heart in every word, gesture and choice reveals himself in a completely sincere, genuine, authentic way. The pure of heart is sincere, loyal, righteous, not ambiguous, not polluted. It presents himself, he does not perform!  He doesn’t

borrow a different personality depending on the circumstances. “A heart is pure if does not pretend and is not stained with lies and hypocrisy. A heart that is as clear as spring water, because it does not know; a heart whose love is true and not only the passion of a moment»(Benedict XVI). The consecrated Virgins give testimony of it every day in their total abandonment to Christ the Bridegroom.

                                                                            Patristic Reading

                                                                        St. Aurelius Augustine

                                                            Expositions on the Psalms ( En. In Ps 62,22)

Ah! brethren, need there was of the blood of a just one to blot out the handwriting of

sins; need there was of an example of patience, of an example of humility there was of the Sign of the Cross to beat down the devil and his angels; need for us there was of the Passion of our Lord; for by the Passion of the Lord redeemed has been the world. How many good things has the Passion of the Lord done! And yet the Passion of this Just One would not have been, unless unrighteous men had

slain the Lord. What then? is this good thing which to us has been granted by the Lord’s Passion to be ascribed to the unjust slayers of Christ? Far be it. They willed, God permitted. They guilty would have been, even if only they had willed it: but God would not have permitted it, unless just it had been …

For what evil thing has befallen Christ, in that Christ has died? Both evil were they that evil willed to do, and yet nothing of evil did He suffer on whom they did it. Slain was mortal flesh, slaying

death by death, giving a lesson of patience, sending before an example of Resurrection. How great good things of the Just One were wrought by the evil things of the unjust! This is the great mystery of God: that even a good thing which you do He has Himself given it to you, and by your evil He does good Himself. Do not therefore wonder, God permits, and in judgment permits: He permits, and in measure, number, weight, He permits. With Him is not iniquity: Romans 9:14 do thou only belong to Him; on Himself your hope set thou, let Himself be your Helper, your Salvation: in Him be there the fortified place, the tower of strength, your refuge let Himself be, and He will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able to bear, but will make with the temptation also an escape, that you may be able to support it: 1 Corinthians 10:13 so that His suffering you to bear temptation, be His power; His suffering not any more on you to be done than you are able to bear, be His mercy: «for power is of God, and to You, O Lord, is mercy, because You will render to each one after his works.» 

IN BRIEF … The Passion of the Lord is celebrated: it is time to moan, time to cry, time to confess and pray. But who of us is able to shed tears according to the greatness of so much pain? (En. in Ps. 22, 1)

Palm Sunday – Year A – April 13, 2014

Roman Rite

Is 50:4-7; Ps 22; Phil 2:6-11: Mt 26:14 -27, 66?

Ambrosian Rite

Is 52, 13-53,12; Sal 87; Eb 12,1b-3; Gv 11,55-12,11

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Archbishop Francesco Follo

Monsignor Francesco Follo è osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso l'UNESCO a Parigi.

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