Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord at St. Francis Xavier Parish
With the celebration of Palm Sunday this weekend we enter into Holy Week, the most sacred time in the Church’s year as we prepare for the celebration of Easter. This Sunday we read the Passion narrative according to St. Mark, and I invite you to enter into this reflection:
“If the gospel accounts stopped just after Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, how would you imagine the next few days playing out? The scene could easily be imagined as a hero’s entry in advance of his great triumph soon to follow.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, his disciples must have felt the same weight of expectations, the portent of what Jesus’s entry meant, not just for themselves, but for everyone. If Jesus was the promised Messiah, the events to come were not just concerned with the realities of one Passover in Jerusalem or the fate of the people of Judah but with the world and, yes, the world to come. What could one do but wait with sharp expectancy for events to unfold?
And yet one unnamed woman does more than wait. Her actions interpret not only Jesus’s entry as the expected king, but the sort of king Jesus must be. After his entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus went to Bethany. In Bethany, “a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.” In this action, she simply supports the reception accorded Jesus as he entered Jerusalem as the king. The mashiach (Greek, christos) is the “anointed one,” and her actions tell us that she not only understands that Jesus is the anointed one but that she has a need or responsibility to anoint him. But who is she to anoint a king?
The people gathered around Jesus, however, ask a different question: “Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages and the money given to the poor.’ They were infuriated with her.” Their question is not without merit, for in scolding her they probably were attempting to voice Jesus’s concern for the poor seen throughout his ministry. Jesus asks another question, “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her?”
Somehow the concerned disciples have missed something. “She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.” Jesus’s response is not an attempt to mark out the permanence of poverty as a social problem but to note that her “good thing for me” has focused proper attention on him. Whether or not she knows the full implications of what she has done, she has directed those present to see Jesus as the Messiah, to grasp his christological identity.
Her identification of Jesus as the Christ by anointing went deeper, however, than even she knew, for she could not have known that she had “anticipated anointing [Jesus’s] body for burial.” Faithful women will later seek to care for Jesus’s broken body after his death in order to anoint it with burial spices, but they would not find a body. The unnamed woman, though, already had anointed Jesus not only as a king but as the humble King who emptied himself out in death.
The humility of Jesus is reflected by the generosity of this woman, who pours out all that she has as a witness for him. Who is she to anoint a king? Given the universal significance of Jesus’s passion week, her anointing might seem a little thing, but it is the most any of us can do: she recognizes Jesus, and gives all she has for him, not understanding completely that her actions helped to prepare the King, first for his death and then for his triumph, but knowing somehow he is the Messiah.
The significance of her actions is felt when Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” We, too, are called to recognize Jesus the Messiah in faith, not simply as a conquering hero but as a servant willing to give himself up to death for us.” (Living Liturgy 2021)
I think that by now many of you will have heard that the provincial government has announced that, due to the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in our city, as of Monday we will enter into the “grey zone” with more restrictions in place to limit the spread of the virus. Please note that starting Monday we will ONLY be allowed to accommodate 15% of our church’s seating capacity. Some parishioners who have registered for a Mass on Easter Sunday and/or a Liturgy on Good Friday will be contacted by our parish office on Monday offering you a place at a different Mass or Liturgy that has a smaller number of bookings. This Sunday the celebration of Masses will remain at the 30% seating capacity.
Just to remind everyone that the blessing of Palms will be omitted from the celebration of Mass this Sunday, as was mentioned before in my communication 2 weeks ago, and all Masses this Sunday will begin in the usual way. Also I forgot to add before that the washing of feet at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday will be omitted as well this year as per Diocesan guidelines during the time of pandemic.
Finally, I want to stress once again that in regard to the bookings for Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter, your booking does not reserve you a particular seat in the church. Seating will be on a first come, first serve basis and therefore please be aware with the reduced seating capacity in the church you will likely be seated in the Chapel Hall or the Great Hall.
Congratulations to the students from our 2 elementary Schools, St. Agnes and St. Francis Xavier, who received the Sacrament of Confirmation this week through the hands of Fr. Claude and myself. We invite our parishioners to remember them in your prayers, that they may be courageous witnesses for Christ. The candidates for Confirmation from St. Clare of Assisi School will be confirmed towards the end of April due to unforeseen circumstances.
Our Lenten Retreat for Youth and Families concludes this Sunday evening from 7-8pm on Zoom, and all are welcome to attend! This week’s theme is Holy Week. If you would like to participate and are not on the contact list, please email Wes at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the Zoom invite. Thank-you so much to those who have facilitated and participated in our retreat!
Once a month our youth ministry community is coming together on Zoom to pray the Rosary. All are welcome to take part! Grab your Rosary and join in this Tuesday evening, March 30, at 7:00pm as we pray and reflect on the Sorrowful Mysteries. If you are not currently on the contact list for Zoom invites from Wes, please feel free to contact her for this information at email@example.com. Hope to see you Tuesday!
The Stations of the Cross on Good Friday will be led by the youth of our parish in the form of a tableau with music and reflections. The Stations will begin at 7:00pm, and will also be live-streamed for those who would prefer to take part from home.
You’re invited to join us for Palm Sunday Mass in person as we gather as a believing community. For parishioners who are prevented from attending at this time we provide the live-streamed 10:00am Sunday Mass this weekend on our YouTube channel.