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The Most Beautiful Experience

Image: Christ’s entry into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti (1280-1348) Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi


Palm Sunday, Year C          

Luke 22:14-23:56


What is the most beautiful experience we can have?

The first time being a parent or a grandparent? Or guiding a juvenile out of a trouble? Or simply being with your loved one, having a morning coffee together? This may sound too romantic to those who undergo difficult times, especially when the world is upside down with wars and economic inflations today.

Those who keep up with the Ukrainian news updates hear many incredible stories about the resilience of Ukrainians. There was a lady who returned to her city and had a cup of coffee at a coffeeshop patio, expressing her simple joy of having freedom to enjoy coffee, and feeling guilty at the same time as she recognized the sacrifices of Ukrainian soldiers fighting and dying on the frontline. War and peace are two contradicting notions, but they may be able to co-exist like that in a blink moment of one’s life. And, paradoxically, one might be able to find an essence of beauty in such an awkward and tragic moment, only if one has a courage to face the life’s unbearable challenges.

Recollecting beautiful and sometimes tearful memories makes us feel home. Dory, the regal blue tang in a Disney animation Finding Nemo says, “It’s there, I know it is because when I look at you, I can feel it. And I look at you, . . . I’m home.”

If you are a Disney fan, you remember Dory suffering from short-term memory loss, but after developing such a close friendship with Nemo’s father, her short-term memory loss seemed to have improved, and she said, “Please don’t leave me. No one has ever stayed with me this long, and when I look at you, I remember stuff better.”

Jesus stayed with His disciples for a short while. I think His disciples were like Dory, forgetful of Jesus’ teaching, falling asleep when Jesus was praying on the mountain, being needy on one hand yet brave on the other . . .

Who do you look at? Who do you remember when you have a quiet moment alone?

“God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son” (Jn 3:16) as the atonement for sinful humans.

God coming to earth in human form to save humanity is the mystery revealed to those who believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord. "Mystery of faith", defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, means a mystery hidden in God, which can never be known unless revealed by God. It is in Christ that God has been manifested to all of mankind. As Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 4:9).

Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ – his suffering, death, and resurrection – is God’s plan of salvation, and this mystery is continuously proclaimed and renewed through celebrating the events of Christ’s life. And, it is our call to live His mystery in our own lives.

Today we read the short version of the Passion Gospel, part of Luke chapter 23 that portrays Jesus’ trial before Pilate and Herod and His crucifixion, but the entire version assigned for Palm Sunday includes two chapters, 22 and 23, which contains the narratives about the Last Supper, Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives, Peter’s denial of Jesus, and the burial of Jesus after His death. This is a very intense drama that evokes the emotions of the hearer.

Last year my Palm Sunday sermon was on the crucifixion of Jesus, and this year I would like to have your attention on the Last Supper.

The Eucharist we celebrate each Sunday is a re-enactment of this Last Supper of Jesus, the final meal that He shared with His disciples before His arrest. The disciples were instructed to do the same in memory of Him. In this meal, Jesus reinterprets Passover, instituting the New Covenant by saying “This is my body which is given for you . . . This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you” (Lk 22:19-20).

In the Jewish tradition, Passover remembers the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, which was the central act of redemption in the Old Testament. The focus Jesus has, however, was no longer on the suffering of Israel in Egypt, but on the sin-bearing suffering of Jesus on their behalf.

The words ‘this is my body’ had no place in the Passover ritual, thus Jesus’ words must have been quite stunning, which later on would grow on the disciples’ minds with the increased understanding gained after Easter.

As we eat the bread, we should remember how Jesus was pierced and beaten with stripes for our redemption. As we drink the cup, we should remember that His blood was poured out on Calvary for us, because His redemption has reconciled us to God.

The bread and the cup are powerful pictures to partake of, to enter into, as we see the Lord’s Table as the new Passover.

A covenant is made when we establish a relationship between two or more parties. It presupposes the parties who come together to make a contract, agreeing on promises, stipulations, privileges, and responsibilities. Covenants in biblical times were often sealed by severing an animal, with the implication that the party who breaks the covenant will suffer a similar fate. In Hebrew, the verb meaning to seal a covenant translates literally as “to cut.”

A covenant is a serious deal. By having this new covenant, we are entering in to a new and close relationship with the other party, which is God for Christians, turning away from our old relationships with other things that we have worshiped or pursued. It is like marriage in which the couple are committed to each other and the lasting relationship, despite having seasons of difficulty and strain.

God said in Jeremiah: “this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (31:33).

It is God who initiated this new covenant, and it has been fulfilled in the New Testament with the coming of Christ and the indwelling and empowering of the Holy Spirit. God made a covenant with Noah, with Abraham, with David, with Israel, but now, this new covenant includes Gentiles as Jesus renewed the old covenant by becoming the Lamb of God slaughtered to atone all human sins.

The New Covenant was instituted at the Lord’s Supper as part of the Eucharist. This New Covenant is associated with the word testament in the sense of a ‘will left after the death of a person,’ the instructions for the inheritance of property (Latin testamentum).

Jesus, the King of kings, Son of God, entered the city to a humble display of praise and honor, on a donkey, not on a decorated horse. He did not offer sacrifices but He challenged the religious status quo and cleansed the temple. Thus, we, too, humbly enter the Church to worship God with pure hearts. And as Paul advised Philippians, let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus, who was in the form of God but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness (Phil 2:5-11).  

The most beautiful experience we can have is this Paschal mystery – suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ.