Sunday, April 02, 2023

Stirred & Shaken

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (A)

Readings: Matthew 21: 1-11; Isaiah 50: 4-7; Psalm 21 (22): 8-9, 17-20, 23-24; Philippians 2: 6-11; Matthew 26: 14-27: 66

Pictures: By Alex Boyd & Kike Salazar N on Unsplash

[At the Entrance:] My dear friends, did you use a teaspoon this morning? We often use one to mix ourselves a drink, to stir a liquid into which we wish to add something else. As we begin this most holy week of the Church’s year, the gospel offers us a similar image. It tells us that upon the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred. Somehow the sight of the Lord, coming as a triumphant king, yet riding on a lowly donkey, agitates everyone. Prompting them to ponder the question, who is this? Inviting them to let the answer penetrate and transform the busy beverage of their daily lives. As we raise our palms, ponder our scriptures, and perform the prescribed rituals at this Mass, let us also allow ourselves to be stirred by these questions: Who really is Jesus… to me? Where is he going, and what is he suffering… for me? What difference does he actually make… in my life?

[After the Passion:] As any avid fan of James Bond can tell us, the fictional British spy prefers his martinis shaken, not stirred. A helpful reminder that there’s more than one way to mix a drink. Helpful, because the gospel tells us that, just as the whole city was stirred at Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem,  so too is the very earth shaken, when the Lord finally dies on the Cross. From a tiny spoon sleepily stirring a breakfast beverage, to a pair of giant hands vigorously shaking an adult cocktail. The change in imagery is striking, isn’t it?

Indicating that, as the Lord’s Passion progresses, there is a corresponding increase in the power of the question, who is this? Power to uncover disordered attachments, and resistance to the truth. Such as the stubborn refusal of some to accept Jesus, and the anxious request to secure his grave. Power to change hearts. Such as how, at the sight of Jesus breathing his last, even the soldiers who crucified him – likely the same ones who had tormented and mocked him just hours before – even they, are moved to acknowledge him as son of God. And power to deepen discipleship. Evidenced by how some of Jesus’ followers, especially the women, are able to accompany him, albeit from afar, all the way to the end.

And what about us? We who conscientiously observe Holy Week every year, and who publicly profess our faith in the Lord every week. To what extent do we make his attitudes our own? The countercultural attitudes of downward mobility, of him who did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave… even to accepting death… on a cross… If you’re like me, the answer is likely mixed. Which is why, in addition to pondering his Passion in the liturgy, we also need to cultivate his habits in daily life. Taking care to awaken each day to listen like a disciple, to speak to the wearied with a disciple’s tongue, and to courageously follow the Lord to Calvary and beyond.

Sisters and brothers, there really is more than one way to mix a drink. As we accompany the Lord to his Passion, how might he be stirring and shaking us, helping us to better absorb his attitudes into our hearts, our lives, and our world today?

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