“It is good to wait with silence for the salvation of God”
On this Sunday of the Palms, our Holy Mother Church invites us to remember that it is through suffering and death that we attain to the resurrection. The tone is by the collect of the Mass in which, after recalling that God wanted His Son to take our flesh and suffer death on the cross to give us an example of humility, we ask that “we may both follow the example of His patience and also be made partakers of His Resurrection”.
Historically, the Church of Rome on this day celebrated only the Mass of the Passion. Later, under Gallican influence and certainly by divine inspiration it adopted the procession of the palms. As the beautiful prayers of the sanctification of the palms tell us, the olive branches symbolise the spiritual unction of the New Covenant, the grace of God which is infused into our souls by the Holy Spirit through the sacraments – several of which use olive oil in their administration. The palms symbolise the victorious triumph over the forces of evil, which Our Blessed Lord won by His passion and resurrection. These two trees give us much to think about in these troubled times. They tell us that, whatever may be our trials, the consolation of the Holy Spirit is ever available to us. They remind us that, whatever our sufferings, the victory already belongs to those who stand perseveringly with Christ.
Suffering is the lot of all. There is no human being who can avoid it. It includes physical, psychological, emotional sufferings, torments of the body and anguish of the soul. We must all suffer and die. For the Christian who puts his faith in Christ, suffering is not an irremediable disaster; death is not the end of everything. It is because they were interiorly penetrated with the grace of God, with the sweet presence of the Three Divine Persons, that so many martyrs were able to approach their death, not only with peace but even with joy.
And this, my dear Friends, is truly the great lesson of Palm Sunday. No matter how dark the days, no matter how severe the persecution, no matter how unjust the treatment, no matter how absurd the situation, the one who is with Christ is always victorious, he is always the winner, he always receives the crown, because His Lord paved the way before Him; He triumphed over evil by allowing evil to exhaust all of its energy on His sacred Person; He destroyed death by accepting to die. As G.K. Chesterton said: Christianity has died many times in history, but it has always come back to life, for the simple reason that it has a God who found His way out of the grave.
Yes, we are living in dark times. Yes, the present situation is one of great concern. The contagion of disease is real, though probably not as dangerous as it is made out to be. What is so much the more a matter of concern is the contagion of sin. Is it not appalling to consider to what extremes our leaders will go to preserve us from the contagion of a bodily disease, but do nothing to stop the contagion of deadly sin which pollutes our homes and corrupts our youth through the obscenity of films which are allowed in name of freedom of expression? In the name of freedom, you may stay in your home and destroy your soul and the souls of others by fuelling the shameful industry which uses and abuses women and children with impunity, but you may not go to your local church to pray, for if you do, you will find the doors locked? These are indeed dire times, and the quasi-universality of the situation certainly has an apocalyptic flavour to it.
That is why this celebration is so important, and why all Catholics should meditate at length on the lesson it teaches. Yes, the persecution of the anti-Christ will be awful, but remember, the hatred which the Jews had for Our Blessed Saviour and which led them to inflict such cruel torments on Him, only served the purpose of increasing the measure of His love for us and the abundance of graces He merited for us. The dark night of the Lord’s passion, through which each of Christ’s followers must pass in one way or another, is the night that becomes bright as day, suffused as it is by divine grace.
This is why, in the very midst of our tribulations, we should remain at peace and, deep down, should even feel something of the joy of the Holy Spirit. They can take our work, they can take our transportation, they can confine us a particular place, they can prevent us from going to church, and even from receiving the sacraments, they can lock us up in a prison cell, they can fine us, and even inflict many other punishments on us, including death: they can never take away the source of our joy, which is our love for the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ; they can never take away the certitude of the crown that awaits us, nor the spiritual unction which presides in our soul.
The Prophet Jeremiah, one of the Old Testament saints who prefigures with the greatest precision in his own person and life the sufferings of our Lord, gives free rein to the bitterness of his soul in the Book of Lamentations. This week we will ponder these words, and they will take on new meaning for us as we look around the world and realise that in this most holy week of the year, for perhaps the first time in history, most of the Catholic Churches in the world will have no public Masses:
The Lord hath cast off his altar, he … hath not withdrawn his hand … the law is no more, and her prophets have found no vision from the Lord. The ancients of the daughter of Sion sit upon the ground, they have held their peace: they have sprinkled their heads with dust, they are girded with haircloth, the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground. My eyes have failed with weeping, my bowels are troubled: my liver is poured out upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people, when the children, and the sucklings, fainted away in the streets of the city. They said to their mothers: Where is corn and wine? when they fainted away as the wounded in the streets of the city: when they breathed out their souls in the bosoms of their mothers (Lam 2:7…12).
But in the midst of this awful dirge, the Prophet finds peace and gives us words which are a balm to the soul. We will chant them at the office of Tenebrae on Holy Saturday: The mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed: because his commiserations have not failed. They are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, said my soul: therefore will I wait for him. The Lord is good to them that hope in him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good to wait with silence for the salvation of God (Lam 3:22-26).
Yes, it is good to wait in silence for the salvation of God. This week, this Holy Week, let us turn off the noise, let is open the Gospel, let us read with great affection the accounts of the sufferings of Our Blessed Lord. Let us wait in silence for the salvation of our God, for His power is not diminished. He will come, and He will not delay.
With Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, who followed Her Son at each step of His passion, let us keep Him company this week, let us carry the cross of Jesus in our heart and in our flesh. The holy abbot St Poemen saw himself in a vision with Holy Mary at the foot of the cross. He wept with her, and all he knew was that he wanted to weep in that way forever. To weep for the sufferings of Jesus, to try to console Him for the sins of the world, for the murder of the unborn, the corruption of the innocents, the exploitation of the weak, the cowardice of so many who could do something about it, but who are like dumb dogs that refuse to bark when danger approaches, to weep for our sins, for your sins, for my sins. Let us ask Mother Mary for the grace to truly console the Sacred Heart of Jesus by the generosity of our prayers and sacrifices.
“It is good to wait with silence for the salvation of God”