Palm Sunday

A Reflection on Palm Sunday

This Sunday, Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday. Undoubtedly, many sermons will be preached at liturgies in all corners of the world today. The topic will be our Lord’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and its meaning. I would consider here, however, events from not long before which are also included in today’s reading from Saint John.

The evening before, Jesus went to the house of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead, for supper. During the meal, Lazarus’ sister Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment and wiped His feet with her hair. Judas Iscariot complained saying the money would have been better spent on the poor. To this, our Lord replied, “The poor you will always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

“The poor you will always have with you.” In other words, there will always be poor people. Alas, we live in a fallen world in which suffering of all kinds exists. But that does not mean we shrug our shoulders and give up on it. Indeed, when Saint Mark recorded this incident in his Gospel, he included further words of our Lord on this topic. Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you.” He then went on to say, “And you can help them whenever you want.” We must do what we can to help the poor in their suffering.

We have free will, of course, so we can choose whether we help or not. But it is wise, I think, to make that choice in the light of the parable of the sheep and goats. Our Lord commanded us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and clothe the naked. I doubt that I must remind you what the fate was of those who chose not to help the needy. We are free to do as we will, but, as we all know, choices have consequences. And some choices have eternal consequences.

Saint John Chrysostom has some beautiful words to say about helping those less fortunate than ourselves. “Not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life; we do not possess our own wealth but theirs.”

The theology behind what he said is simple. God does not give us more than we need so that we may pile it up in useless things, hide it in drawers, or stash it away in banks. If He gives us more than we need, it is so that we may put it to its proper use in helping those who do not have enough. We may think here of what Moses wrote when God rained manna down upon the Hebrews as they journeyed through the desert: “he who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack.”

Everything we have in this life is a gift from God. Just as manna could not be stored away for future use, so too, our worldly goods cannot be taken with us into eternity. When that day comes, all that will matter concerning our worldly goods is what we did with what we had over and above our needs. Did we share and lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven? Or did we lay it to the side, ignoring the tears of the poor, only to find ourselves empty-handed on the day of judgment?

Fr. Jeremiah

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