Thursday, April 14, 2011

Palm Sunday Reflection

Palm Sunday 2011

A Reflection for Palm Sunday by Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/ Divine Mercy Franciscans

Divine Mercy Parish, Franklin, MA

Today we celebrate Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem but we must keep in mind it marks the beginning of the week that details the suffering that Christ was willing to endure so we could have forgiveness of our sins and achieve everlasting life with God and all the heavenly elect.

The week highlights what Christ was willing to GIVE UP in order for us to receive forgiveness of our sins.

For this reason throughout all of the history of the church the faithful have been asked to GIVE UP some of the comforts and luxuries that make our lives pleasurable.

As a Franciscan I and the members of our Divine Mercy Franciscans follow the rule of St. Francis who is most often shown surrounded by animals not just because he respected all of God’s creatures but because they reminded him of Christ’s teaching found in Matthew 6 :26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

St. Francis saw in animals a vision of the poverty of God, a freedom for life not dependent on possessions, a freedom that lives by giving and receiving, rather than by possessing.

The hallmark of St. Francis’ commitment to life with and for the poor is the practice of voluntary begging. Voluntary begging, for Francis, is the act of intentionally and publically relying on the charity of others for the sake of one’s livelihood and a means of caring for those who are in need because of illness, age, poverty and homelessness.

Item one of the Rule of St. Francis it states “This is the rule and way of living of the brothers: namely to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience, without personal possessions”, and Item 6 it states “The brothers shall appropriate nothing to themselves, neither a house, nor a place, nor anything; but as pilgrims and strangers in this world, in poverty and humility serving God, they shall confidently go seeking for alms. Nor need they be ashamed, for the Lord became poor for us in this world even to giving up His earthly live in order for us to gain forgiveness of our sins and achieve everlasting life with God and all the heavenly elect. .”

On this Palm Sunday and the final week of Lent called Holy Week this reflection will talk about specific ways we can practice self-denial to and in a small way participate in a very small way in the suffering that Christ endured during his week of passion.

It is so easy for us to be attracted to material riches and the creature comforts they often provide but to be true followers of Christ we need to make a categorical decision not to let them become an idol we honor more than we honor God.

One way we can overcome this constant temptation and respond to our neighbor's needs by share with others what God in His generosity has given to us or allowed us to earn is to make a donation of the cost of what we give up to a charity or your faith community so they can help others as St. Francis instructs in his rule item 6.

Saint Paul, in Romans 15:25-27 speaks of the collection for the Faith Community of Jerusalem which tells us that even in the early church the work of proclaiming the Good News of Salvation required all the faithful to participate and care for each other. It is no different today.

A Faith Community is only as successful as how many of the community get involved in doing the work of God by providing the means to do it.

There is no better way for us to show our intercommunion and fellowship with the Body of Christ than to “Do unto others as we would have done unto us.” (John 15:13)

All over the world ministries and churches are having difficulty meeting the basic needs of their faith communities. Even here in the United States many faith Communities have difficulty because of and the sluggish economy meeting the weekly operating expenses let alone fulfilling the food, shelter, and other services the poor, aged and sick of their area need due to high unemployment.

I hear the same story from pastors all over this country how they are struggling and having difficulties because collections and donations have dropped drastically

Recently a Boston Globe story reported that the average per person weekly income of the Greater Boston are is $1000 (One Thousand Dollars) a week. Considering that there are many who do not receive even $250 a week, I have to wonder what others must be making for the average to be that high and how those on the high end of the wage scale are helping those at the bottom.

The average weekly salary in the area is more than I receive to live on for a whole month and I use some of my income to support the needs of our ministry.

If everyone reading or listening to this reflection would just give the cost of a daily cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks for the week to their Church the result would make a huge impact.

I pray that everyone who this reflection reaches will reflect on their sharing of the gifts God has given them to have, especially in light of how the recent disaster in Japan reminded us how quickly everything can be lost, consider making an offering that helps those less fortunate the impact could be awesome.

The Church from the earliest times has called on Christ’s followers to give of themselves as Christ was willing to give for us.

Giving up something does nothing unless it also has a positive result like Christ’s Passion and Death.

As Paul reminds us in Romans 15:25; “ I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.”

May Almighty God inspire you during this last week of Lent to be merciful and generous to the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ and neighbors of the world for it is not what we have given up that will open the gates of heaven, but what we have done to help others. AMEN

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