Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Your Master has need of it."

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, April 1, 2007:

Today our celebration of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion begins the great feast of Holy Week – the most sacred week of our Church year. At first glance, today can seem like an odd feast. Before the Second Vatican Council, Palm Sunday was observed one week before Passion Sunday giving people time to savor the echoes of “Hosanna!” for a week before they are confronted with the bitter cries “Crucify Him!” In the liturgy today, the two celebrations have been brought together. We began commemorating the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, a joyful celebration in which we join the people of Jerusalem in welcoming Jesus with happy shouts of “Hosanna!” Then, as we just heard proclaimed, the story of the suffering and death - the Passion - of our Lord Jesus Christ in which our “Hosannas” are changed to cries of “Crucify Him!” The dramatic and emotional effect of bringing these two aspects of the reality of Jesus’ life together is at first strange, but I think ultimately helpful.

These two themes of “Hosanna” and “Crucify Him” serve as a prologue to the rest of Holy Week. This is sort of like a movie preview that we see before the feature presentation. We get glimpses of the glory – Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem – and a look at what is to come – His death on the cross. But, like every good movie preview, it doesn’t give away the ending. We have to stick around all week to see how this all turns out.

Today, I want to focus on the “Hosanna” of our story – the glorious entrance – and I want to look at a character in the story that perhaps we don’t usually think about. We often focus on Jesus as King, or the disciples and their part in the story, or the crowds and how they hailed Jesus. I want to talk about two characters no one ever seems to mention – the colt and its’ owner. Think about it for a minute. How different would this story be if the unnamed owner of the colt had refused to give it up? Maybe we would have no story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, at least not in the way Jesus intended.

The point is that no matter how unknown a person is, how small a role someone plays, every part is crucial in the full unfolding of God’s plan. The Lord needs each one of us just as he needed even a small colt and its owner in His entry to Jerusalem. We are never told who this owner of the colt is, but the fact that they understood that “the Master” refers to Jesus and voluntarily gave up the colt shows that they could have been a secret disciple or admirer of Jesus. Otherwise, you would expect them to answer, “But who is this ‘Master’ who needs my colt?”

A colt was a very big thing in the time of Jesus. The colt was the equivalent of a car, a truck and a tractor all in one. It was a car because people used it to move around and do their shopping, a truck because it was used to carry a load, and a tractor because it was used in cultivating the land. Add to this the fact that the colt had never been ridden, that means it was brand new and had a very high market value. You can see that giving up the colt just because the Lord needed it was a very big sacrifice indeed. It was a generous and heroic act of faith; even though it seems very simple.

The challenge is for us to search our hearts and ask do we respond as quickly and as generously when our Master calls for our gifts, talents and treasure to be used for His Kingdom and His Glory?

A priest was really getting the congregation moving with his preaching. Near the end of his sermon he said, “This church has really got to walk,” to which someone in the back yelled, “Let her walk preacher.” The preacher then said, “If this church is going to go, it’s got to get up and run,” to which someone again yelled with gusto, “Let her run preacher.” Feeling the surge of the church, the preacher then said with even louder gusto, “If this church is going to go, it’s got to really fly,” and once again with ever greater gusto, someone yelled, “Let her fly preacher, let her fly.” The preacher then seized the moment and stated with even greater gusto, “If this church is really going to fly, it’s going to need money.” There was silence. Then someone in the back seat cried, “Let her walk preacher, let her walk.”

We are reminded today that each one of us has got a colt that our Master needs. The famous spiritual writer Max Lucado offers this reflection on using our colt for the service of the Lord: “Sometimes I get the impression that God wants me to give him something and sometimes I don’t give it because I don’t know for sure, and then I feel bad because I’ve missed my chance. Other times I know he wants something but I don’t give it because I’m too selfish. And other times, too few times, I hear him and I obey him and feel honored that a gift of mine would be used to carry Jesus to another place. And still other times I wonder if my little deeds today will make a difference in the long haul. Maybe you have those questions, too. All of us have a colt. You and I each have something in our lives, which, if given back to God, could, like the colt, move Jesus and his story further down the road. Maybe you can sing or program a computer or speak Swahili or write a check. Whichever, that’s your colt. Whichever, your colt belongs to God. It really does belong to him. Your gifts are his and the colt was his. The wording of the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples is proof: “And if anyone should ask you,‘Why are you untying it?’ you will answer, ‘The Master has need of it.’”

As we enter into yet another great and glorious Holy Week, let us ask for the grace to hold back nothing of ourselves from the Lord, our Master. Let us freely give of our time, our talent and our treasure – our colt – to bring forth the very presence of God in our world; to help transport Jesus from this place to the many places where people do not yet know Him. Let us be forever in His service.

So, what is the name of your colt? Your Master has need of it.

Have a blessed Holy Week and may God give you peace.

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