Dear Friends: We begin this week the beautiful celebration of Holy Week culminating in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. During this past week, our weekday masses had scriptural readings which not only pointed towards the coming conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, but more especially, indicated the reasons for this conflict. Perhaps it is worth spending a few moments reviewing the reasons for the conflict. The Jews believed and still believe (at least those practicing as Jews) they were the chosen people, a people chosen by God Who spoke to the Patriarch Abram and Who asked Abram to leave his place of origin and found a new people, the ones who would become the Jews. The Jews were and are very proud (legitimately) of their ancestry, that because one individual (Abram) listened to God and acted as God wanted him to act, a whole people was brought forward. The Jews placed their faith in the God of their Fathers, especially Abraham and tried to be true to Him, even though throughout their history, they failed their God, who never failed them. This is why the Jews are called the People of the Covenant. A second great event in the history of the Jewish people was the rare and special event which took place with Moses. Moses had left Egypt. He was well educated, well trained, a highly respected person in Egypt. While living in the desert, Moses was confronted with a rare sight, a bush was burning but was not consumed by the flames. Moses went to see this strange event, and a voice spoke to him. The voice told him to take his shoes off as he was stand- ing on holy ground and that he should return to Egypt to free his people from tyranny. (Historically, the Jews are presented as slaves. That may not be totally true as they were tradesmen, soldiers and builders of the pyramids. Thus, they were not slaves as we would think of slaves but rather indentured servants.) Moses asks the voice who was speaking because if he, Moses, went to the Jews and told them to follow him, they would ask for identification – no photo on the license as we have, but verification that he was being sent by ..........? If someone is appointed ambassador to Jamaica, they have appointment papers for themselves and for the government they will represent. Thus, Moses asks the right question. The answer is a strange one – Tell them I Am sends you. This unique revelation tells the Jewish people that the God of Abraham lives and speaks to them through Moses. This wonderful revelation shows that the God of the Jews was not a dead god, like the gods of the pagans, but a living God, one who communicates with His people. We know the rest of the story. These beliefs of the Jews that they were the Chosen People and that their God was a living God was essential to their very being and life. They believed that the God was a single God, One very different from the many pagan gods. When Jesus speaks to the Jews of His day, He begins to say that His Father – their God – sent Him and that what He, Jesus, says is not His own words, but the Word of His Father. The Jews were beside themselves. They said Jesus blasphemed and did the worst possible sin a Jew could commit – to identify Himself with God. In fact, Jesus even goes further. He not only says God, the Jew’s Father, spoke to Him and sent Him, but that He, Jesus, was with the Father before Abram heard God speak to him. In referring to Himself, Jesus uses the very words of Moses to identify Himself: I AM. The Jews were ballistic. This is a carpenter. He isn’t even a Rabbi. They knew His family. Their conclusion was that He was a huge sinner, a blasphemer and probably crazy. They kill Him. In our Catholic understanding of Jesus, we believe that Jesus did not lie nor was He delusional. We believe that He spoke the truth. As such, we take His words seriously. What then was He saying? In our Catholic faith, we believe that Jesus was revealing some- thing very beautiful about God – that God, indeed, was One but also that God was complex. Just as water is one but composed of molecules, H2O, so God, too was complex but still one. As a trinity, God could communicate within Himself between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is only because God could communicate within Himself that He is able to communicate with us directly – though His Son, Jesus the Christ.
In our celebration of Holy Week, let us remember that Jesus died so that we may know the true inner being of God, that God is love, forgiveness and generosity. We too are called to become like God by being loving, forgiving and generous.
Happy Palm Sunday. Fr. Bill