Palm Sunday reflection

Journeying with the Joy of the Gospel is a series of daily reflections for Lent and Holy Week written by Fr Kevin O’Gorman SMA.

These daily reflections are inspired by Pope Francis’ Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel. Each day’s reflection begins with a quotation from the Joy of the Gospel and then Fr O’Gorman teases this out, addressing one of five major themes:

Evangelization – announcing the Gospel in new ways, ‘ever ancient, ever new’ [St Augustine];

The Church and the People of God as agents of evangelization;

Issues of personal integrity for evangelizers and pastoral workers;

The Social dimension of evangelization;

The Spirituality which underpins the work of evangelizing and the evangelizer.

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day [paragraph 3]. While self-denial and carrying one’s cross constitute the cost of discipleship the call at the heart of today’s Gospel issued by Jesus is to be[come] ‘my followers’ and ‘follow me’. Through companionship with Jesus in his journey to Jerusalem his followers will come to the joy of Easter. Published by St Paul’s this beautiful book is well worth making use of throughout Lent as you make your personal journey through the Gospel towards the Joy of Easter. It is available from St Paul’s Book Centre in Athlone and can be ordered online through their UK Book Store.

An evangelizing community gets involved in people’s word and deed by holy life; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, suffering the human flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers just take on the “smell of the sheep”. (Par. 24)

This is not the triumphal entry of an emperor returning from the war to win the applause and the acclaim of the assembled crowds but the tender sample of one who abased himself and was not afraid to smell of the animal that he sat astride. Bridging the distance between God and the word Jesus ‘embraces human life’. Called to imitate his involvement ‘by word and deed in people’s daily lives’, the faithful ‘take on the “smell of the sheep” by ‘touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others’.

Perhaps the best know quote of Pope Francis is the one that which refers to the ‘smell of the sheep’. First used in his famous initial interview, it appears again in the Joy of the Gospel. Holy Week begins on the sight of Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a colt, the city whose children he longed to gather ‘as a hen gathers her brood under her wings’. (Lk 13:34).

Palm Sunday Thought

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day [paragraph 3].

After the ashes of Ash Wednesday have been wiped away we are reminded that the Cross is not a symbol worn for one day in the year but a daily standard that Jesus sets for his disciples: ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me’ [Luke 9:23].

While self-denial and carrying one’s cross constitute the cost of discipleship the call at the heart of today’s Gospel issued by Jesus is to be[come] ‘my followers’ and ‘follow me’. Through companionship with Jesus in his journey to Jerusalem his followers will come to the joy of Easter.

While the invitation of Pope Francis to ‘a renewed personal encounter with Jesus’ has a special intensity in Lent it is intended to include every day of the Church’s year. There are no days off in the journey and joy of the Christian life.