Saturday, April 12, 2014

Palm Sunday "Freedom and Love in the Passion of Christ"

The following is an excerpt of the above passage: 

“Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.” While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a large crowd, with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests and the elders of the people. His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying, "The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.” Immediately he went over to Jesus and said, "Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed him. Jesus answered him, "Friend, do what you have come for.” Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest´s servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?”

Introductory prayer: Lord, I believe in you. I believe you are true man and true God. I believe that as a man you exercised your free will in love and fully accepted your passion and death for love. Increase my faith. Lord I hope in you. I hope for the grace to make use of my freedom well and never to betray you in any way. Lord I love you. May my love always be loyal to you. Lord, thank you for freely accepting your passion for love of me. Give me the humility to accept my cross the way you accepted yours: out of love.

Petition: Lord, move my will to accept my cross freely out of love for you the way you accepted yours freely out of love for me. 

Points for reflection:

1. Jesus’ Sovereign Freedom in his Passion. This Sunday’s Passion narrative shows us the person of Christ at his darkest hour—an hour when he is seemingly overpowered by the will of men. He is bound, questioned, judged, condemned, scourged, humiliated, nailed to a cross and finally crucified. By all accounts he has been stripped of his freedom and made subject to the powers that be. His conquerors gloat: “So you are the one who was going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days! Save yourself, why don’t you? Come down off that cross if you are God’s Son!” The chief priests and scribes also chime in: “He saved others but he cannot save himself! So he is the king of Israel! Let’s see him come down from the cross, then we will believe in him.”(Mt 26:40-43) But Jesus will not come down from the cross. He will not save himself. He will not be controlled by fear, selfishness and pusillanimity. He will not allow his freedom to be chained by egotism, for freedom is the ultimate requirement of love, and Christ’s love knows no bounds. Whatever part of the Gospel you reflect on in your prayer, let this truth take root in your heart: at every moment of his passion Christ’s freedom – bound only by his love - reigns supreme. 

2. “I have not rebelled” we read in Isaiah’s prophetic words, “I have not turned my back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting” (Is 50: 5-6). 

3. Jesus freely embraced the Father’s redeeming love. This is the title of number 609 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which reads:

“By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus ‘loved them to the end,’ for ‘greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love that desires the salvation of men. Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: ‘No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.’ Hence the sovereign freedom of God’s Son as he went out to his death.”

Concluding prayer: Lord Jesus, you loved your freedom intensely because it was the most powerful human means at your disposal to fulfill your mission of saving souls for love of the Father and love of me. You never allowed any selfish love to take hold of your freedom, because you had offered it irrevocably to the Father. Your passion and death was meant to be the supreme proof of your love and the greatest moment of your free self-giving. Thank you for the gift of my freedom that allows me to love you at every moment and give myself to you freely through daily obedience to your will.

Resolution: When virtue is trying today (patience, charity, joy) I will remember how Christ freely chose what was difficult out of love for me.

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