Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
This calendar year finds me celebrating 50 years as a priest. Along with my simple amazement that I have reached this point in life comes a wealth of experience and memories – along with the hope that the good Lord lets my mind stay alert to recall them!
One of my lesser recalls fits today’s liturgical scene. It involves what choices priests have made regarding a homily after the proclamation of the Passion Account at Palm Sunday Mass. Lay readers have to keep in mind the none too subtle pressure that a crammed parking lot puts on the preacher. It springs from an unspoken imperative that this precious space must be cleared in time for the arrivals at the following Mass.
For example, I remember well the decision of one of my wise and compassionate pastors. He suggested no homily but instead inviting the congregation to spend several minutes of quiet reflection on the powerful story. My admiration of him has led me to use his solution the most often.
Another path, taken by a much younger priest was to simply say, “Wow!” at the end of the gospel and then his quick resumption of the rite.
There may well be other choices in between those two that I have not heard in clerical conversation. My point is that there is so much that could be said by a preacher on Palm Sunday that if he were to do so, he risks keeping his parishioners from their reserved table at the brunch, or causing a mild form of road rage on the macadam patch after Mass.
One very good idea that helps keep the solemnity of the week ongoing is to invite parishioners to list the individual characters of the Passion in a journal or electronic tablet and think over the answers to how they may reflect one’s own relationship to Christ. For example, I could ask myself have I ever denied Jesus, like Peter, out of embarrassment over my friendship with Him? Or have I ever been more concerned with material goods, to the point of betraying Christ’s opinion of them, like Judas was? You get the idea. Be your own homilist and reflect on what you have discovered. Then pray.
The goal of any such prayer practice is for you to have a truly profitable Holy Week. One that concludes Lent and escorts you to a happy Easter morning.
First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-7
The prophet acknowledges God’s care for him, but he also tells us that he is ignored and treated badly as were the prophets before him.
Second Reading: Philippians 2:6-11
Recognized as an early Church hymn, the piece has two divisions. Verses 6 to 8 salute Christ’s humility in taking on a human nature. Verses 9 to 11 describe His exaltation.
Gospel: Matthew 26: 14-27:66 or 27: 11-54
Today’s Passion Account sets the tone for Holy Week 2017. We should note how Matthew expands on Mark’s version, and accuses Jewish leaders for instigating Jesus’ death.