Today we celebrate Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of Holy Week. I would strongly encourage you not to treat Palm Sunday and Holy Week as any other “ordinary” week in your life. I would encourage you not to fill up this week with things that you “normally do,’ but spiritually focus on each of the events of Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
An old, now worn out book that I always go back to is “Characters of the Passion” written by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. In his book, Archbishop Sheen carefully looks at the characters of the Passion – Peter, Judas, Pilate, Herod, Claudia and Herodias, Barabbas and the thieves, and the Scars of Christ.
To give you one example from his book, Archbishop Sheen looks at the character and characteristics of Peter. He describes five stages that led to Peter’s fall. The are 1. Neglect of Prayer, 2. Substitution of action for prayer. 3. Lukewarmness. 4.The satisfaction of material wants, feelings and emotions. 5. Human Respect (when we deny our faith, or are ashamed of it under ridicule or scorn). I would encourage us all to do an examination of conscience this week on these five areas. Are we men and women of deep prayer, or do we neglect our prayer life? Do we act without taking time to pray? Are we lukewarm? Are we trying to satisfy ourselves with material wants, feelings and emotions – or does our soul yearn for you Lord and you alone? Have we denied our faith?
Archbishop Sheen then carefully points out the four graced steps that led Peter back. 1. Disillusionment. 2. Response to grace. 3. Amendment and 4 . Sorrow. Hopefully in our lives we experience God’s graces found in the midst of our own disillusionment with how far we have wondered from God. Hopefully we then respond to the gift of the grace from God, work towards amending our lives and truly express our deep sorrow for our sinfulness.
This is a quick summary of one of the Characters of the Passion described by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Let us carefully reflect on how we follow Christ on this Palm Sunday and into Holy Week.
This Fifth Sunday of Lent is the last of the Three “Scrutiny Sundays.” It is a holy time in which we continue to deeply scrutinize our lives. This week we continue our journey with our Holy Father Pope Francis as we look at the 11th of the 15 ailments of the Roman Curia – The disease of indifference towards others. As I have reminded you each week – we should not just look at these ailments as something that simply affects others, but we need to deeply look at how these ailments are present in our own lives. Only when we admit that these are present in our own lives, and turn to Our Lord for healing –then our hearts will yearn for the Lord alone!
The 11th of the 15 Spiritual Ailments: “The disease of indifference towards others.”
“The disease of indifference towards others arises when each person only thinks about himself and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships. When the most expert does not put his knowledge at the service of less expert colleagues: when out of jealousy, or cunning, one experiences joy in seeing another person fall instead of lifting him up or encouraging him.”
I would encourage you each day this week to take one word from the definition above and prayerfully meditate on the word.
Disease – do we feel dis –ease , uneasiness when around others – especially around those who we are not comfortable being with, those who we do not like, or not at ease with what to say or do in particular situations.
Indifferent – are we indifferent in our lives, or indifferent to the sufferings of those around us. Are we like Lazarus in the Gospel Story – indifferent to those begging at our door?
Self Centered – are we only considered with ourselves – who is number one in our lives?
Sincerity – Are we sincere? What does this word mean? (hint –“ without wax”)
Warm personal relationships – do we cultivate those warm personal relationships or are we alone, cold and bitter?
Do we delight in feeling joy at seeing someone else fall?
Encourage – do we encourage or discourage people? Read Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s story on the Cruets that were dropped and shattered?
Lot’s to think about as we carefully scrutinize our lives in this 5th Sunday in Lent and walk deeply into Holy Week.
Blessings, Fr. Brad