To Encounter The Lord And To Be Encountered By Him - Palm Sunday – C / 19, 20 March 2016
Palm Sunday – C / 19, 20 March 2016
Pope Emeritus Benedict said in a recent interview: The Church must introduce the individual Christian into an encounter with Jesus Christ. From Pope Francis, we sometimes hear language of a relationship to Jesus.
This is not always the way Catholics have spoken or thought. We associate such language with Evangelical Protestants, with the language of ‘being born again’ in terms of an intense emotional experience. Or we hear them speak of a personal relationship with Jesus. That can make us uneasy and wonder whether they understand that Jesus is not a personal possession but Lord of all. He’s not just my own personal savior after all!
But this week is a good opportunity to develop and nurture an authentically Catholic Way of encountering Jesus, of having a relationship with him. And I want to address it from two angles:
First, look at the early Christian hymn in Philippians 2, the second reading for Palm Sunday: Have this mind in you which was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave . . . he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him . . . .
But how can you have a relationship with Jesus; how to encounter him?
Make his mind your own – strive to imitate him; imitate his humility and sacrifice; imitate his trust in God that enabled him to risk it all in the death of the cross.
Of course, it’s not easy . . . That leads us to the second angle I want to take.
How do we encounter Christ; how do we have a relationship with him? It is through participation in the liturgy and the sacraments.
This is where and how we stay close. We don’t come here to pay our occasional respects to divinity; we come here to encounter the Lord and to be encountered by him.
We receive him in the Eucharist; that is an intimate encounter. Protestant converts often speak of an awakening that comes when they realize that they can encounter the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, not just in a powerful emotional attachment. Indeed, the full quote from Pope Emeritus Benedict is this: The Church must introduce the individual Christian into an encounter with Jesus Christ and bring Christians into His presence in the sacrament.
Proper preparation and disposition are important so that our encounter might be real and strong.
In the Sacrament of Confession, we encounter the Lord. Jesus who humbled himself though innocent expects that we will humbly acknowledge our sins. And when we do so, we encounter him.
And in the liturgies of Holy Week, we encounter him.
Today we recall his entrance into Jerusalem and then see in the Passion how the crowds and the powers turn against him.
The weekday masses for the next three days count down to the paschal Triduum.
On Holy Thursday, we see his humility in the foot washing and are reminded in this Mass uniquely of how the institution of the Holy Eucharist binds us to him and to his passion and resurrection. Good Friday’s austerity takes us into the humiliation of death. [And it reminds us of the dangers of the so-called death with dignity movement. Death is the final indignity even if we die in our beds well prepared and with a clear mind. It strips of all things, as it stripped Jesus.]
And at the Easter Vigil and the Masses of Easter Day the risen Jesus confronts us. He lives; he calls us to trust him.
But you need to do it. Give the liturgy and the sacraments and the Word of God the opportunity to do their work, to bring you face to face with Christ, to show you God’s ardent love. The emotions will follow and in time and with practice the imitation of him.