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SUNDAY SCRIPTURES FOR APRIL 2 | Are we ready to conform our lives to become like Jesus?

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday calls us to embrace both His crucifixion and resurrection

It seems that we just burned the palms from last year into the ashes with which we were anointed at the beginning of Lent. Now we are anticipating the reception of new palms as we celebrate the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem and His passion and death. This is not a rhetorical question: Are we ready?

I’m not asking if we’re ready to get new palms. The act of receiving palms, including braiding them or fashioning them into crosses, is something we’re ready for. But are we ready for what this celebration of the passion opens up for us? Are we ready, as the prophet Isaiah says, to have our beards plucked and have our faces spit on? Are we ready to take on the crucified form of Jesus and not just the resurrected form? Are we ready to accept both the triumphant entry, and the brutal death of Jesus? Are we willing to pattern our lives in the same direction?

We’re so happy that Jesus did that with us in mind, and for our sake, but we tend to hesitate when it becomes clear that Jesus asks us to do that very same thing for others, especially our enemies. We argue with the wisdom of Jesus and make all the excuses we can so that we laugh it off rather than follow it.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we hear that Jesus emptied Himself, taking on the form of a slave. Just think about that for a moment, and imagine each of us, trying to do that in our own personal lives. What form could that take, and how might it affect how we live?

Throughout Lent, we’ve hopefully been practicing the emptying part. Through our practices of abstinence and fasting, almsgiving and prayer, we have been learning to make room and empty out. So maybe just take a moment and take an inventory of what we have gotten rid of during this Lenten time and are not going to take back when we celebrate Easter.

Have we gone through this whole Lenten time without making a difference in how we live for the long haul? Could it be true that our Lent has been only a minimal life of sacrifice? Could it be that we’ve lived through another Lent, and declared by our actions that we really do not want our lives to take on the form of the life of Jesus?

The poor have not gone away from us, and most of us still have more than enough to meet our needs. What have we done about that imbalance? Our tendency to be self-centered and arrogant might not have given way to humility and service. What is keeping us from taking the next step to make our lives look more like the Jesus we hear about in the Scriptures on Palm Sunday?

If we respond to these questions with embarrassment or shame, don’t waste energy on those things. Let the self-examination be revelatory. Maybe we’ve come to believe that we are more dedicated to the life of Jesus than we really are. Maybe we spend a lot of time looking at how someone else doesn’t live a great religious life without first looking at ourselves and asking for mercy. Maybe we haven’t allowed Jesus to love us so deeply that His love actually transforms our lives. It would be a shame if we’ve had all these opportunities for transformation of heart and life and still have not chosen to do that.

What makes this coming week holy is really not only the official celebrations of the days, but also our choices to conform our lives to become like Jesus. He asks of us not burnt offerings, but a humble and contrite heart. What does true humility look like? What does true contrition lead us to do and say?

Father Donald Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.

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