2020-04-05 – Palm Sunday __
Gospel Passion of Matthew Title: Stay Here !
Introduction: “Meet up”
As we consider this most unusual of Holy Weeks, I invite you to consider a verse from the Gospel of Luke – and a most unusual “meet up”
”Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over”. (Luke 24)
In this gospel, the 2 disciples of this Gospel passage have had a most unusual day or series of days, most unsettling and disturbing because their Savior and Lord – Jesus – had been taken from them. They had seen him put to death.
And, in this Gospel passage we read of the 2 disciples – on the Road to Emmaus - to whom a mysterious “unknown” 3rd traveler appears to them on the road. They do not know who it is – this person does not identify himself explicitly with a birth certificate or nametag. (Spoiler alert: the 3rd traveler is Jesus, risen from the dead).
But at first the 3rd traveler is seen only as a stranger whom they are gradually coming to know.
And, the 2 disciples are very attentive to this stranger. At first, they find him out of touch and uninformed. The mysterious 3rd traveler said to them, “what were you talking about as you walked along?”
So, imagine if someone called you up right now and said to …. “hey, buddy, hey pal, what’s happening… what’s happening in the world…. What are you talking about…what are you thinking about ?”
You would say to such a person: “What planet are you from? Did you just crawl out from under a rock? Don’t you know what’s going on in the world? ”
So, these 2 travelers heard a question, “What are you talking about?”
And, they said to the stranger, “Well are you the only person who does not know what is going on? .” And, they remind him that Jesus of Nazareth – mighty in word and deed has died.
Nevertheless, the 2 disciples welcome this 3rd person, talk with him and share the events of the day with him. And, this person does connect with them – this unidentified person – this stranger shares with them their sorrow, their grief at the death of Jesus and then this 3rd traveler starts to explain the scriptures and prophecies to them.
It is a reminder to us that God is – Jesus is – reaching out to us even when we do not explicitly acknowledge His presence.
Also, God hears us – in this COVID-19 crisis and in other crises when we cry out saying… Lord, we need help, don’t you know what is going on here?
We also need each other for help.
This Holy Week, we gather to pray and remember our Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection but do so in light of the COVID-19 crisis and mandatory sheltering in place at home. Our mobility, physically, is minimized.
All of us, on some level, may feel lost or frustrated after several weeks without mobility, free travel, and our regular routine. This feeling of loss and frustration is magnified right now for anyone in sorrow or mourning, anyone who has lost a loved one recently.
It also magnified for those who cannot, for example, visit with each other or go the cemetery to pray and honor our loved ones.
A government order about safety and public health has been imposed on us. We did not ask for this…
I’d like to reflect on this with a few thoughts, they all begin with the letter M,
First .. that Jesus wants to “meet up with us” and this continues in what is happening right now in terms of…
MEDICINE ….MEDITATION ….METHOD … MERCY…MOVEMENT
1st . MEDICINE OF THE TIME… / PRAYER REQUEST
We need and fear that we may not have enough medicine, enough healing or quickly enough. Yet, let’s remember especially to pray for those who the difficult job of caring for us when we are sick… physicians, nurses police, fire, EMS, first responders of West Orange and everywhere who know what to do and carry it out. Please pray for them!
2nd MEDITATION OF THE TIME
Meanwhile, what are we called to do? Both the NY/NJ/CT Governors and Jesus seem to be in lockstep agreement about “MEDITATION”.
Jesus said in Matthew’s Gospel of the Passion of Palm Sunday: “watch and pray.” (Matthew 26:36) Meanwhile, Jesus went some distance away to a different part of the Garden of Gethsmane.
But, at the same time, we might recall that Jesus’ MEDITATION was not “social distancing”. He went away – to pray – so as to do something spiritually decisive in their favor, something for them.
A mother or father – in sacrificing each day for a child – does not “go away” for distancing as much as the parent is deciding also to lay down his or her life each day for a child.
We may – even in a time of crisis with more time on our hands struggle with prayer, not sure how to pray. These are some ideas..
Instead of wondering how to squeeze prayer into the busy schedule of our work days … adopt a new vision in which all that we do is the work of prayer. Even as we go about our other business, we can bring our awareness to the spirit of the hour: (these could be petitions for each time of day)
· DAWN: Praise, gratitude, joy
· MID-MORNING: Blessing + communion w/ Holy Spirit
· NOON: Fervor, commitment, and a longing for peace at noon
· MID-AFTERNOON: sense of impermanence + willingness to forgive
· DUSK / EVENING: Serenity and healing
· NIGHT: Opening to the darkness
Time set aside for prayer can be a great blessing, but we can turn all of our daily tasks into prayer when we bring to them the awareness of ourselves in relationship with our ever-present God. (Source: URL above for Loyola Press)
At this time of “shelter in place”, I encourage you and need to remind myself to adopt these principles to order and structure the day and night to give each part of the day a different petition.
That’s the meditation for “shelter in place”
3rd METHOD FOR THE TIME – “STAY HERE”
Nevertheless, as children, we often did not like it when our parents said “stay here”…while they went off to do something without us physically present.
“Stay here”: that is a prayer request of Jesus Himself, to shelter in place in a Christian spiritual way so that he can talk to us exactly where we are.
It is also challenging to “stay here” and “stay home” when we consider the beauty of Mass and worship in our churches… at Our Lady of Lourdes
We feel – naturally and logically – relative to God – more in “comfort”, more in “communion” and more in “contemplation” when we are in church. That is the METHOD we know….. And, in church, we can focus in prayer in a way that is more challenging at home.
PRAYING AT HOME
Yet, Jesus also dwells in your home. He is with you now and wants to pray, to talk with you.
Yes, it is true we are searching for God but God has already found us.
This is also amplified and signified in Jesus’ own prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“Father if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not as I will but as you will.” (Matthew 26:42)
4th MERCY FOR OUR TIME – WHY WE PRAY.
We might make the same prayer for our own everyday experience:
- For the person who cuts us off in line in the supermarket or in traffic.
- For the person who frustrates us with a demand
- For the realization that my sins, my selfishness is causing difficulty for me or someone else.
“Not my will, but thy will.” (Matthew 26:42) Praying in this way, we don’t have to find God, he has found us.
And, there is then a little more of God’s presence in our own home and heart.
5th MOVEMENT FOR OUR TIME
I encourage you in this time of sheltering at home, to find a way to make a prayer space, a table or part of a table, or a corner of a room where you can reflect and be reminded that God with you in your garden always.
At this time, maybe that space or table could include – if nothing else the names of your loved ones, living and deceased, the words of a prayer, the words … “not my will but thy will…” on paper for you to see in your method of prayer in your prayer space.
It could also include a list of things –you are grateful for .
Your home is not just a “staging area” where you park your car which takes you to a parking lot or parking space where you can enter church. Jesus is with you at home and asking – “what are you talking about?”
Remember this extension of your family and also your church beyond your own walls. The family of the church also extends into your home, your table, your thoughts … especially when you can also say to Jesus… “Stay with us for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” Jesus wishes to both meet up and move in with you.Jesus has searched for you. He has found you. Go to Him, always.
GRATITUDE, THANK YOU !
This year, 2020, a special thank you to all the volunteers, all who make Our Lady of Lourdes liturgy and Mass beautiful in our house of worship – every musician and choir member, every lector who proclaims God’s Word, every altar server, every extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, every usher of hospitality and welcome. You all help to make ours a house of contemplation and community. So many of our volunteers are unsung heroes. This is not only true on Sunday but throughout the week in ministries of prayer, service, and religious education for our parish family, children, and young people.
We are grateful – I am grateful – also at both Christmas and Holy Week to our Art and Environment team who decorate our church. While we will not decorate the church for Easter Sunday April 12, we will decorate with flowers at some point in the future. For now, I just ask you – remind you – that Jesus does not simply say “stay here” while He goes away to pray. Rather, He says “stay here” so that we can be with him and realize that he prays for us even when he seems far from us.
I encourage you to prepare both your heart and your home this Holy Week and Easter for his Passion, Death, and Resurrection by the way you arrange your table, your time, and everything you treasure. May God’s peace be with you.
Blessed Holy Week and Happy Easter to you!
In Christ’s Peace,
Father Jim Ferry