Palm Sunday Lectio Divina March 28, 2021
Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me.
In these times when religion and faith in God are considered not much more than an afterthought by many people in our society, it's easy to imagine even respected influencers scoffing at the devotion of the lady with the alabaster jar. Jesus’ words get to the heart of the matter, as usual. Why do the onlookers care so much about what she does with the alabaster jar? Why have people ever criticized religious devotion throughout the ages? It’s because it’s so much easier to recognize our physical needs than it is to recognize our spiritual ones; and when the latter are chosen over the former, those who don’t understand spiritual matters consider the choice to be a waste. Jesus commends the lady’s act of devotion, because the act brings into better focus the spiritual realm that could easily be brushed aside by our worldly concerns. After all, Jesus’ victory will be a spiritual one and not a worldly one as many had hoped for.
Take it; this is my body
The disciples listened when Jesus told them to eat his body. Only true believers would do such a thing. Yet, in the very next chapter, even the disciples who just ate of his body will abandon Jesus. Christ’s body is not only the Eucharist. It is also the Church. So when we partake of Communion we are becoming part of his Body, the Church. The disciples demonstrate how we can be part of the Body and believe, while still failing to do what God expects of us. This is why he gave us the sacrament of confession. Christ’s body must be without blemish. He is the Spotless Lamb. Meditate on the meaning of this, and why the Church thus teaches that to receive Communion with mortal sin on our souls is to bring judgment upon ourselves. “For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself” (1 Corinthians 11:29).
This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.
Christ wants to build a loving relationship with us, and he is willing to die to do it. As he had this Last Supper with his disciples, he knew everything that was going to happen to him in the next day, and went through with it all anyway--because of love. In John 3:16, we read that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. Christ would not have said that if he wasn’t planning on backing it up with action. He continues to back up those words, not only at every Mass, but in all the ways he showers his grace and forgiveness upon the world. Our sins are all covered by this blood of the new covenant.
Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times
How often, despite our sincerest intentions to stay faithful to God, do we still deny him nonetheless? It may be by not going to Mass on Sunday, or by failing to stand up for the faith at work for fear of the outcome. If we allow Christ’s intimate knowledge of our own shortcomings to pierce our hearts, and see how he loves us despite them all, we can have the conversion of heart that Peter had. This same Peter who denied Christ three times would later proclaim the Gospel all the way to Rome, and lead the Church through some of its darkest persecution as the first Pope. Redemption is possible for those who have a contrite heart.
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
In Lent we experience what Christ is talking about here firsthand. The disciples were understandably tired after a long day, and probably deemed that they deserved a rest. We are all guilty of doing that. We can get pretty creative in the excuses we come up with for relaxing our Lenten discipline. Christ’s words can bring into focus the whole point of Lent: to make us more aware of the spiritual battle within us. We cannot tune into that battle very well if we are constantly giving into the weak desires of the flesh.
My God, why have you forsaken me?
God forsook his son, his only son? Indeed, why? Christ became our sins. For that brief time on the Cross, Jesus bore everything that ever messed up his father’s original plan. As much as it pains God to do it, this is the only way to reconcile everything to himself. Christ died once and for all, but now all who look to the Cross can receive its salvation. In a clever twist of fate, God used an act of great evil, the murder of his son, to bring about the greatest good: salvation for all the world. But it came at a cost that God the Father hated to bear.
When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Much attention is given to the Good Thief, but this centurion's proclamation of faith is not given as much consideration. It is especially powerful when considered along with the story of the Good Thief, though. We don't know where the centurion or the thief were in their spiritual journey, but by being in the presence of Christ they received the heart of conversion. When Peter acknowledged Christ as the Son of God, Christ said it was not man but the Holy Spirit who revealed that to him. The same could likely be said of the centurion when he acknowledged Christ as the Son of God, then. We often tend to bunch the characters in the Gospels into groups, and may assume the centurions were just all sinful since they were the punishers of Christ and represented the big, bad Roman Empire. We usually see them forcing Jesus to carry his cross in the Stations of the Cross at our church. Picture one of those centurions right now. Then meditate on the power that the presence of Christ must have had, if his dying could convert the heart of even a Roman soldier who participated in killing him.
Lord, no one is too far from your mercy and grace. The story we read this Palm Sunday reminds us in so many ways of not only your immense love for us, but also the perfection of your plan to save us from our sins. May we never grow weary of the salvation you offer, and may we experience your mercy anew as Holy Week approaches. Thank you for redeeming us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The world grew dark when Jesus died. It was perhaps the most important moment in all of history, and it was probably also one of the quietest. After all, the God who created everything had just breathed his dying breath. Contemplate how God can speak profoundly even in the darkest moments, even in complete silence. Darkness can also be of a spiritual nature, when we lose sight of God in the midst of the boring monotony of everyday life and our souls feel empty. When we are done reading a Scripture passage, this kind of darkness may creep in again. Let’s not forget to look for God there too, and listen for him in every moment of our day.
David Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.
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