Sunday, April 09, 2017

The Delicacy Beyond Disgust


Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (A)

Picture: cc momovieman

[Brief Homily at Solemn Entrance: The Importance of the Donkey

My dear children, brothers and sisters. We have with us today a VVIA. A very very important animal. Do you know what it is? Yes, it’s a little donkey. And do you know why this donkey is important. Not all donkeys are important. But this particular donkey is important, because it has been chosen by the King. Chosen to carry the King.

And this is a very unusual choice. Because kings usually ride big horses. Not little donkeys. The choice of the little donkey shows us the kind of king we have. The kind of king described in the gospel reading. A king who is not proud and haughty. But lowly and humble. Not bossy and arrogant. But loving and kind. A king who comes not be served but to serve. And to give his life to set us free.

My friends, this is why this little donkey is important. It reminds us of the kind of king we have. And it invites us to follow this king more closely. To be loving and kind to one another. To love and to serve others. Together, let us now follow this donkey. Especially as we begin Holy Week. Let us follow this donkey. As it leads us nearer to our king. And draws us closer to one another…]

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My dear friends, do you like durians? Even if you do, don’t you sometimes marvel at the different reactions that they evoke? On the one hand, because of their strong smell, many people actually feel disgusted by them. Find them repulsive. But then, on the other hand, there are also many who love them. Think they are delicious. For some reason, these people are able to overcome their repulsion. They manage to enjoy the delicacy buried beneath that disgusting smell. How do they do it?

To find and to savour the delicacy in what at first may look like an object of disgust. I’m not sure if you will agree with me, sisters and brothers. But I believe that this is also the challenge that Holy Week presents to us. For, over the next seven days, what our liturgy invites us to do is to listen to a marvellous story. To watch an inspiring drama. The story and the drama of Jesus’ final hours on this earth. The Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.

And isn’t it true that, not unlike the smell of durians, this story, this drama, is something that some of us may actually find repulsive? For what can be more difficult to stomach than the sight of a lively intelligent young man, being cruelly cut down in the prime of his life? Tortured and killed by his enemies. After having been betrayed and abandoned by his friends.

Nor is this the only reason why we may find it difficult to listen to this story. To watch this drama. For isn’t it true that, beyond the tragedy of torture and the pain of betrayal, what some of us may find even more off-putting is simply the fact that we know this story so very well. Or at least we think we do. Having heard it told again and again, so many times before. As they say, familiarity breeds contempt. So that the moment we hear the story’s beginning, our eyes quickly glaze over with boredom. Our minds drift into daydreams and distraction.

Nor does it help that the reading of the Lord’s Passion is so very long. So much longer than what we are used to on an ordinary Sunday. And what’s even worse is that, in Holy Week, we are made to listen to this same old story being recounted, exactly as we find it in the gospels, not just once, but twice. In two different versions. Matthew’s version today. And John’s on Good Friday. How can we reasonably be expected to endure such torture? Let alone find meaning in what we hear. Or be touched by the earth-shattering events that are being retold? How can we go beyond our disgust? In order to truly enjoy the delicacy buried beneath?

Perhaps what we need is what the prophet says God has given him, in the first reading. Each morning (the Lord) wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord has opened my ear…. For my part I made no resistance….  Open and unresisting ears allowing him to listen like a disciple. This is what the prophet receives from God. And, especially in Holy Week, this is also what we need most of all. What we need to pray for most earnestly. To beg God to open the eyes and ears of our hearts. So that we can listen more closely. Can see more deeply. So that we may truly be moved by the story of Christ’s Dying and Rising. May truly enjoy the delicacy hidden beneath what may at first appear to be nothing more than a cause for boredom. An object of disgust.

To see and to hear, to savour and even to enjoy the profound mystery that is described so powerfully in the second reading. The mystery of the selfless sacrifice of Christ. The story of how the One whose state was divine did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave. Laying down his life for me. So that I might live.

To be able to appreciate this wondrous mystery in the liturgy is truly a great blessing. For when my senses are opened in this way, not only will I be able to find Christ in the readings and prayers recited in church. More importantly, I will also be able to find and to meet the Lord, as he continues dying and rising in the ordinary situations of my daily life. And, in meeting him, I will be better able to find meaning in even the most routine of days. The most challenging of circumstances.

My dear friends, although some may be disgusted by durians, others find in them a delicacy. In this most holy of weeks, what must we do, you and I, to find and to enjoy the delicacy who is Christ? The One who dies and rises to set his people free?

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