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Bible Reflections View Comments

Jesus Went There Before Us
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, March 24, 2013
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We begin the liturgy with Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The citizens welcome him with palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David.” It seems to be his finest hour, the popular recognition of who he is as the long-awaited Messiah. But we know from elsewhere in the Gospels that the popular idea of the Messiah was not the role that Jesus was destined to fill. All too soon the fickle crowds will be turned by some of their leaders to condemn this very person they greet so enthusiastically. The disciples’ heads must have been spinning at the sudden reversal of fortune.

Our own liturgy moves quickly from the procession with palms into the reading of the Passion. This is not a dramatic recreation of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem so much as it is an acknowledgment of our own shifting back and forth between faith and doubt, certainty and disbelief, triumph and tragedy.

Reflecting on this movement from triumph to tragedy to the ultimate victory during Holy Week can help us understand the way the Paschal Mystery manifests itself in our own lives. As members of the body of Christ, we, too, experience the death and resurrection that Jesus did. We have all had experiences of life changing in the blink of an eye, events leaving us gasping for breath and searching for meaning.

We can begin to find that meaning in the awareness that everything in our lives—the heights of joy and triumph, the depths of suffering and death—is united with the life of Christ. He experienced what we experience and transformed it through his death and resurrection. It doesn’t make it any easier while we’re going through it, but it does give us something to hang on to, something that can sustain us in the chaos.

St. Luke gives us many memorable scenes unique to his account of the Passion. Only from Luke do we hear the story of the two thieves crucified with Jesus, men who knew that they deserved this punishment—and who knew, too, that this man between them did not. In the depths of his despair, the one we know as Dismas, the good thief, asks Jesus, “Remember me when you enter into your kingdom.” Jesus promises him, “This day you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke also tells us that Jesus says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” We might find comfort in these words when we find ourselves acting out of anger or frustration and hurting those we love.

We celebrate these feasts every year as a reminder that Jesus knows what we’re going through because he went through it before us. Enter into Holy Week in a spirit of prayer. Pay attention to the Scriptures. Often our own problems are mirrored in the events of Jesus’s Passion. Think about some of the less-emphasized stations of the cross (Jesus is rejected. Jesus falls for the second time.) and reflect on how you have experienced these events.

Jesus’s last words in Luke’s passion are, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” These words are perhaps our best response to the difficult times in our lives. We are forever in God’s hands. Knowing this in the depths of our beings gives us all the assurance we need. It doesn’t make the bad times go away, but it does promise that the darkness will not triumph.


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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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