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AT THE PROCESSION WITH PALMS
 
A reading from the Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 19:28-40)
 
Luke tells us of a joyous procession of the followers of Jesus into Jerusalem. You would think, just from this reading, that Jesus is about to be accepted as the true Messiah, not crucified as a dangerous criminal. How did the situation change so radically and lead to his death just a few days later? On one level, the politics of the time, Jesus is obviously a threat to the Roman rulers, and on the religious level he is also a threat to the Pharisees and Sadducees whose seat of power was the Temple in Jerusalem. Suppose the majority of the people turned against them and wanted Jesus as their leader. The Romans would never have let that happen, and they had the military power to prevent it. At the same time, the religious leaders’ power existed only with the support of Rome, which would not be happy with some upstart prophet leading a rebellion against their authority or that of the Temple.
 
On another level, however, there was God’s plan that was not about any specific earthly power but rather about salvation, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, for all people for all time.
 
READINGS AT MASS
 
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 50:4-7)
 
Isaiah tells of a Suffering Servant. “The Lord God has given me a well- trained tongue, that I may know how to speak to the weary a word that may arouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. … The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.” Throughout history, Jesus has been seen as the Suffering Servant Isaiah envisioned, the one who came not to be served but to serve, the one who came to die for us.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24)
 
“My God my God, why have you abandoned me?” Jesus prayed these words on the cross, but this is not an utterance of disbelief or despair. We can assume that Jesus knew the whole psalm, including the strong expression of hope that follows these words.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
(Chapter 3:8-14)
 
“Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
 
This is a remarkable passage from St. Paul who, like all the followers of Jesus, was trying to make sense of who Jesus was. He put together the two parts of the mystery, the human and divine dimensions of Jesus. It is the mystery of our faith: Jesus was not only a prophet and a healer, but also the Son of God who shared the divine life. Paul “got it” and gave his life for it. In this letter, he shares the mystery with his contemporaries and with us.
 
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke
(Chapter 22:14-23:56)
 
At the beginning of this long reading, Luke recounts the story of Jesus sharing a Passover meal with the apostles. “When the hour came, Jesus took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is cup is the new covenant in my blood, which shall be said for you.’”
 
This is the beginning of our Eucharist, the one we share today and at every Mass. Yes! It comes from Jesus himself, and for two thousand years people have gathered to celebrate the presence of Jesus in our midst and in our very bodies. The Eucharist binds us to Jesus and to one another every time we celebrate in his name.
 
There is so much more in today’s Gospel. Please listen carefully and read it again. Each time, you will be rewarded with new insights and a growing closeness with Jesus. It is the story of our faith living in us now.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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My Lord and my God,
you who are slow to anger and
abounding in kindness and compassion,
pour forth your mercy upon me.
Help me to drop the stones of
self-righteous judgment,
and the stones of retribution.
Let me always look with compassion and empathy
on the actions of others.
May I always leave judgment to you.
May I learn to choose forgiveness and love.
Thank you for quietly inviting me
to drop the stones I cling to.
Give me the grace to be held in your abundant love
so I may unclench my fists and be free.
Amen.

 
Adapted from RENEW International’s LIVE LENT! Year C by Sr. Terry Rickard, OP and Deacon Charles Paolino.

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 43:16-21)
 
“Remember not the things of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.” “I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink.”
 
Isaiah is writing this toward the end of the exile in Babylon to give people hope in the midst of great suffering. Through the prophet, God reminds the Israelites that he had the power over the waters as they escaped from Egypt, that he opened a path for the chosen people to pass and then closed it on the Egyptian army, destroying it. Now, as the people hope to return from exile, he will produce another miracle, putting water in the desert for the people to drink.
 
To understand this wonderful gift, we need to realize that the desert-like Mideast region that includes Israel today was a desert thousands of years ago when all these events happened. Without water there is no life. God, who is the source of all life, promises this gift of life to his people.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6)
 
“The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” What has God done for you or your loved ones that has filled you with joy? Sometimes, it is too easy to take God’s gifts for granted. How do you give thanks to God for these gifts?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
(Chapter 3:8-14)
 
“For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his Resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings.”
 
The Pharisees and Sadducees believed that salvation came from adherence to the Law of Moses. Paul and the early Christians believed that only faith in Jesus would save them, not keeping the hundreds of religious laws imposed on the Jewish people. That was heresy to the Jewish leaders and threatened their whole way of existence. Paul, who was previously called Saul, had been a strict follower of the Law, but he came to believe that everything he had been attached to was “so much rubbish … because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord.”
 
How do you and I know Jesus as more than an important historical figure from the distant past? How do we see his crucifixion and resurrection as more than past events, as unique and dramatic as they may have been back then? How can we have a personal relationship with someone who is much more than a benevolent and even heroic historic figure? Who is Jesus NOW for us?
 
Knowing Jesus is both like and unlike knowing anyone else. On the one hand, we need to learn as much about him as possible and communicate with him in our prayer life. Yet, we only really know Jesus when we accept that he is a gift to us, coming TO us rather than we coming to him. He is always there, always present to us, even when we don’t realize his presence, when he may seem distant. Have there been times for you when you felt his presence powerfully but then felt that it slipped away? Maybe it was at a time of great rejoicing or a special insight or, more likely, at times when you were down, in need of support to climb out of some deep darkness or danger. Of course, it helps if you, can find time each day to say hello, to say “thank you” or “help me.” But the key thing is to know that the presence of Jesus in our lives is not dependent on our attention. His very Spirit lives within us at all times. Sometimes you can feel it or hear it. At most other times we simply need to trust that he is there.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 8:1-11)
 
Jesus is in the temple area, and people are coming to see and hear him. “Then the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?’ They said this to test him so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write in the ground with his finger. But when they continued to ask him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one. Then Jesus asks her ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She replied, ‘No one sir.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin anymore.’ ”
 
This is a powerful story of the forgiveness of Jesus, but it is much more. The scribes and Pharisees quote the Law of Moses, but Jesus is saying that he is above and beyond that law. No wonder that they wanted to kill him. He had turned their world upside down. Today, the forgiveness of Jesus can turn our world around as well.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Merciful and Waiting Father,
we thank you for your extravagant and reckless love for us.
You are patient with our wanderings,
understanding of our lapses of fidelity,
and desirous of our return.
Give us the graces we need
to reach out to those who are alienated
from our families, our church and from you.
Teach us to be as welcoming and accepting of others
as we are always welcomed by you.
We pray this trusting in your love for us,
in the name of Jesus, the compassion of God
and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

 
Adapted from RENEW International’s LIVE LENT! Year C by Sr. Terry Rickard, OP and Deacon Charles Paolino.

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The Pennsylvania grand-jury report in the summer of 2018 and the allegations against former Cardinal McCarrick reopened the wounds of the clergy sexual-abuse crisis and coverup. As I read the detail of the crimes committed against the most vulnerable, I experienced anger, disillusionment, and shame. I wanted to distance myself from it all.
 
As I began to listen to the anger and pain of everyday Catholics while facilitating parish listening sessions, buying groceries in the neighborhood, and attending family gatherings, I knew I had to do something. As I worked through my anger, the Holy Spirit slowly brought me to the truth that I needed to be part of reforming and rebuilding the Church—this Church that I love and that formed me in my faith. I needed to act for the sake of the majority of the faithful lay women and men, clergy, and religious who follow the way of Jesus—these faith-filled Catholics who celebrate the sacraments, pray daily, and are committed to charitable works and just acts. My co-workers at RENEW felt the same way. We needed to do our part to heal our Church.
 
I am inspired by a statement by theologian Karl Rahner: “I acknowledge that the Church has caused me much grief, but it is a heaviness I am not willing to put down. I will carry it until it is transformed into life, and the burden becomes light.”
 
We at RENEW recommit ourselves “to carry the Church until it is transformed into life.” With this in our hearts and minds, we developed Healing Our Church and its Spanish counterpart, Sanando Nuestra Iglesia, primarily for “people in the pews”—to face the truth, rebuild the Church, and find a way forward together as a family of faith.
 
Healing Our Church and Sanando Nuestra Iglesia are small-group processes that include prayer, stories of victim-survivors, reflections on Scripture and the sexual-abuse crisis, and faith sharing—all leading to action. The suggested action steps are small and doable and are directed mostly at the local level where effective global action often begins.
 
Developing these small-group resources has been a work of love and a myriad of people— RENEW staff members and advisors—worked unceasingly over the several months to get them ready for Lent 2019. I am grateful to all of them.
 
I am especially grateful to Bishop Alfred Schlert of the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, for pushing us to get this done because he felt strongly, “My people need healing now.”
 
I am convinced the treatment needed to heal our wounded Church is truth, compassion, transparency, accountability, and prayer. And it will take all of us—empowered lay women and men, priests, deacons, religious, and bishops, working together—to heal and transform our Church.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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