Being a little early for once, I opened the door for the meeting room and was filled with anticipation because I knew what was behind that door…the woven palms for this upcoming Sunday’s Palm Sunday mass. A year ago, I had posted pictures of the amazing creations that were made by the people of this parish in celebration of the entrance into Holy Week. It is part of our tradition in our group each year during Holy Week to spend time with each of the gospel version of the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The gospel passage for Palm Sunday is pages long, walking us well into the passion of Christ, but we also reflect on a shorter gospel, this year from Mark. We decided to use this scripture for our meditation today. Reflect for a few moments on your own, and then “listen” in on the reflections we shared as a group below the reading.
The Entry into Jerusalem. 1 When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately on entering it, you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone should say to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ reply, ‘The Master has need of it and will send it back here at once.’” 4 So they went off and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. 5 Some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They answered them just as Jesus had told them to, and they permitted them to do it. 7 So they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it. And he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!
Hosanna in the highest!”
- “The master has need of it…”
- These apostles are obedient to doing what Christ asks of them and do so with a willing spirit. What is Christ asking of me? What does he need of me?
- “He will send it back at once…”
- God may ask things of us but we all know when we act according to His will and do what we are supposed to do that He always returns everything back to us “one hundred fold”. (Mark 10:29).
- “…so they permitted them to do it”
- God always makes a way for us to do His will. These apostles probably did not understand at all why they were to get this colt or if they would encounter any reverb from bystanders, much less why Christ told them to respond in this way. Much of the time they were not “let in on” the plan. They often acted in obedience and things went according to God’s plan. Am I trusting God and listening to Him? When I feel I am supposed to act do I trust in His plan, or do I try to make things happen in my own way and time?
- Matthew Kelly reminds us to simplify our acts of obedience to God. He writes for us as Christians to “just do the next right thing“. Being happy in my life can be simplified by just making my next move the right one. He reminds us we tend to complicate life for ourselves, but by just doing the next right thing keeps our faith simply obedient, and not overwhelming and confusing
- The colt which no one had ever sat on;
- It is curious that Jesus wanted the unbroken colt; it would have been more likely that he could have been bucked off of this untrained animal, but yet they were then to lay cloaks over the animal and people would be waving leafy branches in front of it and screaming “Hosanna” and yet this animal calmly carries Our Lord on his procession.
Among the smell of the fresh palms and the hope and brightness we felt sitting among them, we continued on to the case study portion of our meeting.
A Case Study: The Woman on The Plane
Delayed flights due to bad weather and a high security situation at the airport had many people in frustrated and in exasperated moods. After the pilot had delayed the flight to wait for other remaining passengers who had waited in the long lines for security, the flight finally took off. Sitting next to a mother with a sick child, she offered to move to another open seat, so the tired mother could lay her child down. Providentially, she relocated right next to someone who was meant to evangelize to her.
The Woman in the Wheelchair
Immediately, she felt the powerful impression of joy emitted from the new “seat-mate”, (we will call her Angela), which was exemplified by the astounding amount of graciousness this woman showed to everyone she encountered. Whether it was (our) a stranger on the plane next to her, or the flight attendant, Angela repeatedly was saying “thank you” and expressing her appreciation with kind words, the smile on her face, and the peace that permeated. Angela told her new seat-neighbor how she had scrambled through the airport, frazzled, only to mistakenly arrive at the wrong gate. An elderly lady had been sitting in a wheelchair nearby, holding an open bible and called the Angela over. “Honey, you need to be over there.” The elderly woman said, pointing to the gate, while bent over her open bible in her lap.
Gratefully, Angela went on to explain to her interested listener how the elderly woman in the wheelchair had indeed been right, and how she made it to the gate just in time. Angela felt the grace of God had been with the woman in the wheelchair, or perhaps she was some kind of angel or special soul, put there just to guide her. She had never seen or talked to the woman in the wheelchair before, and yet the helpless-looking woman seemed to know where she was headed and where she needed to be. The bible that sat open in her lap was yet proof to Angela of the divine intervention that had again occurred in her life.
Having dealt with a life-time full of threatening situations as a flight nurse for the air force, Angela revealed story after story of to her fellow passenger of how God had repeatedly protected her from death and disaster on many occasions throughout her life. Some stories were too horrific for her active listener, the fellow passenger (and a member of our group), to recount to us, but one story was of a gynecology appointment where the doctor had used instruments that had not been sterilized properly. Angela was the only one of four women who had been infected in that deadly morning of appointments to have survived to tell about it. After being detrimentally sick with fever and other symptoms (and near death herself), Angela lived to praise God in His ongoing watch over her life, and grieved the other women who had passed away at the hands of this deadly mistake.
In addition to childhood abuse, and situations in the course of her work that would give any person reason to despair, Angela emitted joy and the radiance of hope and gratitude for all that she had felt God bring her through. She marveled at the ways He blessed her through so many trials and threats, and continues to give thanks to her God regularly and in everything, never being afraid to share the joy of His grace with those she meets along her path.
- Similar or parallel cases: We have all met strangers who exude this kind of joyful brightness; true lights in the world; often proclaiming their thanksgiving for the blessings God has given them. One particular example was a man at the local grocery store who is older, bags groceries, and is often wearing multiple bandages indicating some places where he must be having pain. Conversely, he always reaches out to others with a tremendous smile and says “How are you today?” and then when asked how he is doing, replies with a loud voice and a big smile, “I AM BLESSED!!”
- How we see this case in light of the gospel: it was mentioned that in the scriptures are notations of the early Christians spreading their devotion to Christ most effectively, not by what they did or said, but by their love for one another.
- Points and questions we used to guide our resolution:
- Matthew Kelly, in Dynamic Catholic‘s “Best Lent Ever” series the other day asked the question: “what is my mission here on earth?” That mission, he said, can change over time, but one thing that we can find at the heart of all of our missions is that we must radiate the joy we have found in Christ. “Live in a way that others see Christ in us every day”, is how he put it.
- How do I radiate joy? How do I give credit to God for my joy?
THEOLOGICAL VIRTUE: HOPE; we felt hope was at the heart of the way this woman radiated joy. Although CHARITY is the way she was loving and respectful to others, we knew that the way she was treating others was a fruit or result of the HOPE that was in her heart because of all that God had brought her through in her life.
HUMAN VIRTUE: The human virtue demonstrated in this case study is this woman’s stunning authenticity. She had a relationship with God and that gave her joy real. We meet people who are trying to be happy but that doesn’t look the same at all as someone who radiates true joy and hope. Cultivating a relationship with God Our Father, Jesus Christ His Son, through the Holy Spirit (all part of ONE GOD, the SACRED TRINITY) is the way to authentic HOPE, peace, and joy.
Here are the guidelines we use to decipher the virtues we want to focus on each week:
How do we act and pray as a result of this case study?
Our spirituality is “contemplative” and “conquering”; meaning, we pray (contemplate) and get our help from God, then we act in the world and serve Him by our actions (conquering evil in the world). Every week we do a case study to help us understand how someone else was effective in the world by acting on their faith, and try to emulate that in our own lives, according to our Christian Faith.
This week’s resolutions: “Make A Smile” and An Act of Hope
There are many times when life is full of burdens. In our group alone, many shared about some of the crosses they are carrying, not complaining, but in pursuit of prayer. Saint Teresa of Calcutta was one that carried many large crosses in her lifetime of service. No one knew the extent to which she struggled internally, but she was quick to encourage the people around her as they served with her in this directive: “MAKE A SMILE” . Making a smile when we are feeling burdened, tired, annoyed, or overwhelmed signals to our bodies (physical changes occur when we smile such as increased endorphins) that we are choosing to be joyful and grateful despite our difficulties. When dealing with difficult relationships, making a smile can be of particular usefulness.
What is the difference between making a smile and faking a smile?
The smile we fake has no gratitude or substance behind it and can be detected by others because we are trying to draw it out from our own “empty well” of resources. A smile we make is a decision to rely on God by an act of faith, hope and love that says “You are my source of hope and joy, Lord. I rely on You for the graces I need in this moment.”
If we spend one moment putting aside our complaints or fatigue, we can ask God to summon for us a reminder of things we have that make our life blessed (even down to eyes that see, legs that walk, the food that made those dishes dirty, the money that comes from that job that stresses us out, etc.) Several times a day this week, we will make an act of hope, accompanied with a smile, as a gift to God that we are grateful for what we have, intend on serving Him, and relying on Him for our strength.
ACTS OF HOPE
There are many to chose from, I find for myself the most effective is the one I express from my heart; just a sentence telling God that He is my source of hope, while in my heart realizing that there is no eternal hope in anything in this world like the ever-lasting, unchanging, ever-loving eternal Father that wants every joy for us. If things are really hard, we cannot always find the words ourselves, so as we take joy in the prayers of so many beautiful saints and in scriptures from over the centuries. Here are a few you can “claim” when times are too tough to find your own words,
- Jesus, I trust in you (turning to the example of St Faustina in the Divine Mercy Chaplet)
- O my God, relying on Your almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Your grace and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen (Catholic Online)
- O Lord God,
I hope by your grace for the pardon
of all my sins
and after life here to gain eternal happiness
because you have promised it
who are infinitely powerful, faithful, kind,
In this hope I intend to live and die.
- Video version by Catholic.org
- Video version by EWTN