Fr. Biju Kannampuzha is the pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Barrie, Ont.
Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, which reminds us of the glorious and triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. As Jesus entered into Jerusalem, the crowds greeted him with shouts of joy and proclaimed him as the Messianic King. They spread their cloaks on the ground and placed the palm branches on the street and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
On Palm Sunday, we begin the most solemn week of our liturgical year: Holy Week. Lent will be over soon and the joyous day of Easter will be upon us. Will you be able to look back and say that your Lenten journey was successful and fruitful so that you can truly partake in the joy of Easter?
Fr. Frank McDevitt, pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Aurora, Ont., made a modest proposal regarding what to give up for Lent this year. He asked us, “Why not give up guilt?”
Inspired by Fr. Frank’s suggestion, I invited my parishioners to join me in giving up guilt and grudges during Lent. I asked them: “Are we ashamed of any past mistakes and failures in our lives? Can we do one thing to undo what we have done in the past? Is there a rewind button that will take us back to the point just before it happened?’
“Our God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing,” says prophet Joel. Why is it so hard for us to pass along that grace to ourselves? To forgive ourselves? Lent is the opportune time to give up guilt.
Most of us, if not all of us, bear scars from the wounds of our past. We have all felt the sting of hurt, heartache, grief and suffering. We often encounter situations when people are rude, unkind and nasty to us. The way they treat us could aggravate and infuriate us. There is always a reason for us to be upset and lose our joy. How do we handle such situations?
There was a man at the airline ticket counter. He was screaming at the agent. He was so rude as he continued to rant, but the agent remained as polite and calm as she could be. She treated him respectfully as if it didn’t even bother her.
Then he left and the next man stepped up. The man said, “I was so impressed. You must be a Christian. How could you possibly treat him so nicely?”
She smiled and said, “It wasn’t so hard. You see, he is going to United States, but his luggage is going to South Africa."
It’s not easy to forgive someone who has wronged us. What they did to us may be unconscionable. They may or may not have apologized or admitted to their own wrongdoing. It’s true that we are 100 per cent justified in feeling the way we do because our feelings are real and they deserve validation.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and to discover that prisoner was you,” said Lewis B. Smedes, a Christian author and theologian.
A grudge is a prison cell and forgiveness is the key to the door. Let us use the key to open the cell and be free.
On this Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday, we will reflect on the passionate suffering, passionate love and passionate forgiveness of Jesus. During His most excruciating moment, while hanging on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
Jesus revealed His power not by revenge, but by forgiving. He revealed His power by not holding a grudge against others, but by forgiving.
We may never face a situation like that of Jesus, but all of us are faced daily with a need to forgive. To forgive does not mean we are weak. It is a gift we give to ourselves.
As I said at the beginning of this reflection, Lent will be over soon. When we look back and find that our Lenten journey wasn’t a fruitful one, don’t feel bad. It's not too late! Begin today! Give up guilt and give up your grudges.
This reflection is based on the readings for Palm (Passion) Sunday, Year B: Mark 11.1-10; Isiah 50.4-7; Philippians 2.6-11; and Mark 14.1-15.47