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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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