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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday sermon


- Pietro Lorenzetti

An interesting post by Jonathan/MadPriest about Palm Sunday and how losing his job has changed the way he's done the liturgy this year. Here's a bit of it ....

[...] As this is probably my last Easter as a priest and as there's not much anyone can now do to me if I upset them, I have decided to do Holy Week this year as I think it should be done and damn tradition. I started today by completely ditching the Passion bit of Palm Sunday and going back to the Book of Common Prayer's template of today concentrating on Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. I remember, when I was a kid, that Palm Sunday was a joyous day with lots of "Hosannas!" I also remember how intense the betrayal of Christ a few days later felt when shown up against the jubilation of Palm Sunday. The Catholic insistence on getting the entrance to Jerusalem over and done with before the service proper so that most of the time can be spent on the trial and crucifixion of Christ completely buggers up this stark contrast between joy and sorrow as you leave church on Palm Sunday feeling just sadness and guilt.

So there was no Passion Gospel at St. Francis this morning (if they want passion they shall have to turn out on Friday). We started off with the blessing of the palms and procession into the church. But we had no gospel at the palm blessing, in stead we had the Palm gospel at the usual gospel spot in the communion service. I preached the sermon that I posted here yesterday, said Palm Sunday prayers and used the Ambrosian Palm Sunday eucharistic preface that is based on Christ's entry into Jerusalem. It all went very well and the handful of people I'm still being civil to really appreciated it ...


I really like this idea of not squishing all of Holy Week into Palm Sunday but letting it take its course day by day. Jonathan also posted his sermon for Palm Sunday - you can read it here or listen to it here. Here's a part of it I especially liked about suffering ....

[...] In some parts of the Church this idea that the pain of human beings pleases God has persisted into our modern era. That people outside of the Church regard Christians as a miserable lot is not an accident. It has to be admitted we appear to spend an inordinate of our time complaining about people enjoying themselves and trying to stop them doing so. There are many examples of even more bizarre practices. In some places men will literally nail themselves to a wooden cross in order to suffer like Christ did. And you can still come across such silliness right in the heart of the Church. I read the other week that the last pope used to regularly self-flagellate. He had a special implement for doing this hidden away in his closet.

Of course, none of this has any basis in the teaching of Jesus Christ. He advised us to live simple lives so that we could be generous to others less well off than ourselves but he never told us to cause ourselves harm and he didn't cause harm to himself either. Jesus fasted at one point in his life for a specific reason but for the rest of the time he eschewed such extreme actions. And the idea that Jesus would want people to suffer like he did is a bit sick if you ask me. It's like somebody going down with a bad case of the flu and saying to their friends and family, "I hope you all get this." If we, weak humans that we are, don't want others to go through the same pains we endure during our lives, why should we think that our merciful Lord would ask for us to endure his pain. Most humans will expend a lot of time, energy and money trying to make sure the people they love don't suffer from avoidable pain and distress. And, Christ did the same. He suffered and died so that we didn't have to. Deliberately embracing suffering when we don't have to is an insult to Jesus. Worse still, it is stating that the suffering of Christ was not sufficient for our salvation ...



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