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Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion - April 5, 2020
by Fr. Don Babinski, Pastor

 Today’s celebration of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion marks the beginning of the holiest and most solemn weeks of our Church year. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, this year’s observance of Holy Week will be radically different from any other one that most of us, young or old have ever observed in our lifetime.
          The mood of today’s liturgy as we shall see, closely resembles the mood we, our country and our world are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the virus we seemed to be living on top of the world. Our country’s economy was booming. Unemployment was at its lowest rate. How quickly things changed in a matter of weeks. Since then our world has been turned upside down.
As the number of Coronavirus deaths and reports of those who continue to contract the virus escalates at an alarming rate, we live in fear and isolation. Suddenly, all of our joys have turned into sorrows.
          Likewise, the mood of today’s Palm Sunday liturgy also changes drastically. It begins on a high note with Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. The Jewish people of the city hail Jesus as their king, crying out “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Sadly, their cries of “Hosanna in the highest” will shortly become cries we hear in our Passion Narrative as the crowd shouts, “Crucify him!” With Jesus’ death and burial, our Palm Sunday liturgy ends on a very somber note.
But there is no cross without the resurrection and there is no resurrection without the cross. As much as we shall hear and learn this week about all that Jesus endured for our salvation, his sacrifice will not have been in vain. Our sadness will come to an end and our joy will be restored with the culmination of next Sunday’s Easter liturgy as we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection. The forty days of Lent (a penitential season) will bring us to the glory of Easter (a festive 50-day season).
Throughout his public ministry, Jesus had to get away from the crowds and even his own disciples so he could be alone to pray and re-energize. During this Coronavirus pandemic, we have been forced to socially distance ourselves and even quarantine ourselves when necessary. Nevertheless, this period of isolation has given us the opportunity to experience solitude so we may quietly pray and meditate as Jesus did.
During the course of his public ministry, Jesus also had to flee the authorities who were seeking to condemn and kill him. In the end, however, if he was to win our salvation, Jesus had to finally face his enemies and accept death on a cross, even though he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
Like Jesus, we, too, are being called to flee this invisible enemy, known as COVID-19, by heeding the advice of medical experts and government officials in order to stop the spread of this heinous virus.
Meanwhile, similar to Jesus, there are those who are being called to face the COVID-19 enemy head on and defeat it. They are working on the frontlines in our hospitals, laboratories and boardrooms. Among them are scientists, doctors, nurses, aides, lab technicians, EMTs, first responders and even maintenance workers.
Just as Jesus won the victory over sin and death by his cross and resurrection, I am certain these heroic combatants will ultimately win the victory over this pandemic. Let’s keep them all in our prayers, as well as those who have died from or are being treated for the virus.
These are trying and challenging times for all of us, just as they were for Jesus in his final days. Through it all, however, Jesus put his trust in his heavenly Father. We, too, must use this unsettling time to imitate Jesus’ example. We need to trust God’s Son who promised that he would never abandon us and would remain with us until the end of the ages. Although we will celebrate this year’s Holy Week in way we never imagined, let us journey together in faith and prayer, despite our physical distance and separation.
Our diocesan TV station, Catholic Faith Network (CFN), which airs on cable Optimum 29 & FiOS 296, will be streamlining the Sacred Triduum liturgies from St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre and from the Vatican in Rome for Holy Thursday Evening, Good Friday, Easter Saturday Night and Easter Sunday. I also encourage you to use the Pastoral Letter written by our diocesan Bishop John Barres, titled “The Great Week” as a source of inspiration and reflection.
In unity there is strength. In times of crisis like the one in which we find ourselves now, it is important that we band together in prayer, even though we must do it in isolation and separation. Prayer is a powerful tool. Let’s use it to our full advantage during this holiest of weeks.
Remember that the mood of today’s liturgy will once again change dramatically with next Sunday’s liturgy for the great Paschal Feast of Easter. The cries of today’s “Crucify him!” will become resounding shouts of “Alleluia!” May the thoughts of that profound transformation give us comfort and solace during this terrible pandemic. It’s a transformation we desperately need. It’s a transformation we hope and pray will come soon.
 God bless you; stay safe; and have a grace-filled Holy Week, despite the dire circumstances we are experiencing!

With love and peace,
Fr. Don