Monday, 29 March 2010

Palm Sunday Year C

The liturgy helps us to fix our eyes upon Christ. Even though His suffering is brought to the fore, the point is not its graphic details but rather His love. Love led Him to this oblation. The root of the word “oblation” is offering—His entire life was directed to this oblation/offering of love.

How is Christ’s offering relevant to us? Remember our Lenten practices? They are on praying, almsgiving and fasting. These three devout practices pertain to three relationships: God, others/neighbours and self. Our relationship with God is enhanced through fervent prayers. Our relationship with others/our neighbours is improved through our works of charity. Our relationship with ourselves is purified through our fasting. In other words, we become more of who we are called to be through purification.

These three practices with their attendant relationships are linked to Christ’s oblation. Firstly, Jesus confirms His availability to God through the offering of Himself—by being obedient unto death. Prayer strengthens His availability, His obedience. Secondly, He seals His friendship with us by offering us His very own body and blood so that we might have eternal life. Thirdly, He lives the truth of who He really is—God and Man—by the purity or singleness of His self-offering to His Father and for us , thus, confirming what St Paul tells the Philippians: His state was divine, yet Christ Jesus did not cling to His equality with God but emptied Himself to assume the condition of a slave.

This relevance of Christ’s oblation therefore is found in what St Paul says in his letter to the Romans: When we were baptised into Christ Jesus, we were baptised into his death. By our baptism into his death, we were buried with him so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we too should begin living a new life. (Rom 6:5ff).In other words, Christ’s Passion is ours. As Christ offered His life, so are we to do—the Passion simply outlines for us the pattern for Christian oblation. Thus, if Christ is truly our pattern, if we want to emulate our model, we would do well to keep holy these days as we fix our eyes on Christ our Lord; on Him and nobody else. The silence, the pokey palms, the excruciatingly long Gospel, the solemnity allows Him and His loving oblation to become present to us beckoning to follow Him.

Therefore, to those not incapacitated by old age, lack of mobility, pregnancy or suckling babies, the ritual of the gathering, the palms, the procession is important. Some of us come here early to book our usual place… our habitual place. We act our survival instinct and that is natural. But, when Christ was born, He did not gun for the Cross. It was not as if he was born and immediately He chose the Cross. Rather, it was His choices, His opening, His availability and His love that finally led Him to the Cross. So, when you come in, after the gathering, the blessing of the palm and the procession, to find your place taken, it’s akin to Christ’s life and that gives you the chance to say to God: “Here I am, Lord. Life has led me to this place not of my choice but I am open to Your will”. Our desire to do God’s will can never be from an arm-chair; it is never at our convenience. Hence, this routine is practice for us. It becomes a symbol of our desire to make our offering to God, like Christ did.

In the days to come, the readings will be long, the weather will be uncomfortably warm and people will probably be inconsiderate in their parking. Do not think of these as inconveniences but rather as a kind of training for the days to come, when God will take up our offering. If you offer yourself to God, He will accept you and it will be on His terms.