Sunday, March 24, 2013

Looking ahead

By Father Perry D. Leiker

Today is familiarly called Palm Sunday, so named because of the procession of palms welcoming the triumphant Jesus into Jerusalem. One moment he is welcomed as a king. Not long after, the mob shouts out: "Crucify him!"

So, we carry our palms to "get into it," not just with our brains, but with out hearts, our feelings, our attitudes, our behaviors.

Let us not be too quick to judge the people shouting against Jesus. As the many different versions of the Way of the Cross describe it, we may not have done anything differently than some of those chanting people. The proof? Look at the way we deal with people of our own time. Furthermore, look with the eyes of Jesus who contextualizes the "way" we deal with people in Matthews 25: "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me. Whatever you fail to do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you fail to do to me."

Today also is titled Passion Sunday, because we begin the celebration of Holy Week (our holiest week of the year) with the proclamation of the Passion of the Lord. This is Year C, the year of Luke; and it is Luke’s Passion that is proclaimed.

Good Friday never changes — it is always the Passion according to John. Of course, the Passion is made up of many parts including: the Last Supper, the agony in the garden, the arrest, the trial, the scourging, the carrying of the cross, the Crucifixion, and the climactic death of Jesus on the cross.

In Luke’s Gospel — often referred to as the Gospel of Compassion — a simple and most profound climax is expressed in one simple phrase uttered by Jesus before he dies. As he hangs upon the cross, buffeted by insults, he finds within himself the unimaginable freedom to say: "Father, forgive them; they know not what they say."

The cross is wood. The cross is a hateful killing. The cross is the pain and suffering described in the Passion. But this climactic phrase spoken by Jesus is the POWER OF THE CROSS! Anyone could die on a cross. Others died beside Jesus. But how many could ever be so in touch with God, so in touch with a life-long belief in and preaching of forgiveness, to be able to reach within in the midst of suffering to find such forgiveness? How many have allowed their spirit to be formed and shaped by God's Spirit to be able to speak forgiveness in the face of so much hatred and injustice? How many have this inner freedom of Jesus? How many could recognize such a moment of grace in the midst of the storm?

Such a profound week! Such a week of grace! So we carry our palms to "get into it", not just with our brains, but with our hearts, our feelings, our attitudes, our behaviors.

Let us die with him, so that we might also rise with him!

Father Perry D. Leiker is St. Bernard parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email

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