It is helpful to see these days before Easter as a week of retreat, and here in New Zealand in response to the COVID-19 threat we are required to retreat from all contact with people outside of our households during these lockdown weeks.
Here is the first of the prayer podcasts – not too many words here, just 15 minutes of gentle reflection with a lot of silence, beginning with the sound of church bells, a traditional call to prayer. Simply find a comfortable spot, a room on your own or a corner with headphones, press play and let the meditation guide you .
You might like to savour some of Pope Francis’ reflections from his Palm Sunday 2019 homily.
Jesus shows us how to face moments of difficulty and the most insidious of temptations by preserving in our hearts a peace that is neither detachment nor superhuman impassivity, but confident abandonment to the Father and to his saving will, which bestows life and mercy. He shows us this kind of abandonment by spurning, at every point in his earthly ministry, the temptation to do things his way and not in complete obedience to the Father. From the experience of his forty days in the desert to the culmination of his Passion, Jesus rejects this temptation by his obedient trust in the Father.
Today, too, by his entrance into Jerusalem, he shows us the way. For in that event, the evil one, the prince of this world, had a card up his sleeve: the card of triumphalism. Yet the Lord responded by holding fast to his own way, the way of humility.
Triumphalism tries to make it to the goal by shortcuts and false compromises. It wants to jump onto the carriage of the winner. It lives off gestures and words that are not forged in the crucible of the cross; it grows by looking askance at others and constantly judging them inferior, wanting, failures… One subtle form of triumphalism is spiritual worldliness, which represents the greatest danger, the most treacherous temptation threatening the Church (De Lubac). Jesus destroyed triumphalism by his Passion.
…Humility does not mean denying reality: Jesus really is the Messiah, the King.
…Yet at the same time the heart of Jesus was moving on another track, on the sacred path known to him and the Father alone: the path that leads from “the form of God” to “the form of a servant”, the path of self-abasement born of obedience “unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8). He knows that true triumph involves making room for God and that the only way to do that is by stripping oneself, by self-emptying. To remain silent, to pray, to accept humiliation. There is no negotiating with the cross: one either embraces it or rejects it. By his self-abasement, Jesus wanted to open up to us the path of faith and to precede us on that path.
…Festive acclamations and brutal torture; the silence of Jesus throughout his Passion is profoundly impressive. He also overcomes the temptation to answer back, to act like a “superstar”. In moments of darkness and great tribulation, we need to keep silent, to find the courage not to speak, as long as our silence is meek and not full of anger. The meekness of silence will make us appear even weaker, more humble. Then the devil will take courage and come out into the open. We need to resist him in silence, “holding our position”, but with the same attitude as Jesus. He knows that the battle is between God and the prince of this world, and that what is important is not putting our hand to the sword but remaining firm in faith. It is God’s hour. At the hour that God comes forth to fight, we have to let him take over. Our place of safety will be beneath the mantle of the holy Mother of God. As we wait for the Lord to come and calm the storm (cf. Mt 4:37-41), by our silent witness in prayer we give ourselves and others “an accounting for the hope that is within [us]” (1 Pet 3:15). This will help us to live in the sacred tension between the memory of the promises made, the suffering present in the cross, and the hope of the resurrection.