Palm Sunday – Lent 2018


Father Thomas Quinn talks about the importance to make a pathway for Jesus in our lives. He cites scriptures where we can take inspiration from, and encourages us to utilize prayer and forgiveness as a way to make way for Jesus in our lives.

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Reflective Study Guide Questions

  • Mark tells us that the people were making a pathway for God — a road for Jesus to enter the city. Have you made a pathway for God, for Him to reach you this Lent? Even if you’ve struggled or failed to do this already, think about how you can commit yourself to doing this this week.

  • How can you lay down your heart, your worries, your concerns, and the places within your heart that need healing — how can you give these things to God this week?

  • Jesus makes God visible to us. Reflect on this: what is He showing you throughout Lent? What has He been making you more aware of? How has He been leading you the past couple of weeks?

  • The crosses we’ve been given are meant to be moments of intimacy for us with God, moments of transformation. How has this been true for you?

  • Reflect on this question from Father Tom: “Is there anyone in your life that you need to forgive? In order to receive the Lord’s healing, He invites us also to forgive.”

Text: Palm Sunday

Hello friends. Father Tom Quinn here with you again for our final session together on this Pray More Lenten Retreat. And, as always, we’ll begin our time together today with prayer. You know, just as the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit upon Our Lady formed Christ in her womb, that word made flesh, right, making God visible to us, so too through her intercession, we again entrust ourselves to her divine spouse, the Holy Spirit, that we may be ever more cooperative with His sanctifying action, and that He may continue to form Christ in us, that He may continue to transform us. The Litany of the Sacred Heart gives us one of its invocations, that the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in the Sacred Heart of Jesus dwelled the fullness of divinity. And so, for that, we entrust ourselves to that Sacred Heart, calling upon that fullness of divinity, invoking the Holy Spirit to continue to transform us and to give us a heart like Christ. So, for that, we’ll begin with a prayer by Pope Pius XII, and his consecration to the Sacred heart of Jesus.

Consecration to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I consecrate myself to You. Take possession of my whole being. Transform me into Yourself. Make my hands Your Hands; my feet Your Feet; my heart Your Heart. Let me see with Your Eyes, listen with Your Ears, speak with Your Lips, love with Your heart, understand with Your Mind, serve with Your Will, and be dedicated with my whole being. Make me Your other self. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, send me Your Holy Spirit to teach me to love You and to live through You, with You, in You, and for You. Come Holy Spirit, make my body Your Temple. Come and abide with me forever. Give me the deepest love for the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in order to serve Him with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength. Take possession of all my faculties of body and soul. Regulate all my passions, feelings and emotions. Take possession of my intellect, understanding, and will. My memory, and my imagination. O Holy Spirit of love, give me an abundance of Your efficacious graces. Give me the fullness of all of the virtues. Enrich my faith, strengthen my hope, increase my trust, and enflame my love. Give me the fullness of Your seven-fold gifts, fruits, and beatitudes. Most Holy Trinity, make my soul Your sanctuary. Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Palm Sunday

You know, dear friends, on this Palm Sunday, we open our liturgy with a great entrance gospel of Jesus entering Jerusalem to the acclamation of the crowds. And I’m always struck by a particular detail about this gospel passage, because there Jesus is, entering Jerusalem in a rather exuberant and triumphant way, and yet it’s so packed, it’s so couched within His trademark humility and gentleness. Look at what the people do. Jesus is entering into the city, and what do the people do? What does Mark tell us? That the people cut leafy branches from the fields and lay them down before Him. And they also do something else. They also take their cloaks, right, pieces of their clothing and lay them down on the road, right. What are they doing? They’re making a highway for God, right. They’re making a pathway, a road for Christ to enter the city.

At the end of our first session together I gave you some homework to go to confession, right. You know, when we lay down our sins, when we lay down those dark areas of our hearts, in a sort of surprising way, it forms a road, right, it forms a pathway for Christ to enter more deeply into our hearts, right. So often we like to keep those dark areas closed, right. We want to hold them, we want to keep them secret, right. We don’t want to show them to the Lord, right. Particularly because we might be afraid that we’ll appear ugly before God, right. So we keep them secret, right. But look at that paradox, right. We lay them down, right. And they become a very pathway for God, right. He transforms them, transforms them, as it were, right.

So often we think those things are going to be barriers, right, but when we lay them down, Christ in His power, what does He do, right? He tramples them underfoot, He who is the victor over sin and death, right. Isn’t this what the whole season of Lent has been leading up to? Isn’t this what we so eagerly celebrate, right? At Easter, through His Paschal Mystery, you know, and the Sacred Triduum, right, His victory over sin and death.

So we take our cue, I think, most importantly this day from the people of the gospel, of that entrance gospel, right. They lay down their cloaks, and we, for our part, we lay down our hearts, we lay down our sins, we lay down those things we want to keep secret from God, right. And they form a pathway, they form a highway for God to enter more deeply into our hearts with His healing action, right. How does He enter, right? He enters very humbly and gently, right. He’s not entering as some conquering general, right. You think of the Roman generals of His time, right, how they would have entered the city, right, and certainly, you know, not too long after Jesus ascends into heaven, you know, we see that happen with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

But look what happens in the gospel. Jesus enters gently, right. A Roman general would probably trample things underfoot, right. The people, he would raise the city. But Jesus, for His part too tramples things underfoot, but look how He does it. He does it gently, right. He doesn’t come in with destruction, He comes in with life. He is our life-giving savior, right. He comes to heal and restore, right. He is not entering in some tank, but on that colt, right, so gently, so full of meekness and humility. How can we be afraid, then? How can we resist any longer, right? We must lay ourselves down for Him. Lay down our hearts. Lay down our sins, and allow Him to give us His healing and the power of His transformation. Let us not resist any longer, but be bold and courageous in loving our God.

On the Way to Jesus Christ

So Jesus enters into Jerusalem, He enters over that pathway of the people’s cloaks and the leafy branches, right, the very part of themselves, and the people, I’m sure, for their part, we can imagine, followed after, right. This following after Christ. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, before he was Holy Father, as Cardinal Ratzinger he wrote a very nice little book entitled On the Way to Jesus Christ. Which is a collection of a few of his articles. And in the first article, that which opens the book, is an article on really it’s a topic we’ve been discussing our past 3 sessions. That of seeking the face of Christ, right. And he comments on this, particularly holding up that Old Testament prefigurement of our Lord, Moses himself, right. And Moses’ interactions with God were ones of great intimacy, right. If we were to go back and read the book of Exodus and Deuteronomy, right, we’d see great intimacy between Moses and our God. And we have that curious episode from the 34th chapter of Deuteronomy, Benedict says, where Moses isn’t allowed to see the face of God, right. What does God do? God says “I’m going to take you, Moses, and I’m going to put you in this cleft in the rock, right. And I’m going to pass by. And as I pass by I’m going to cover you, right. You can see My back, but you cannot see My face, right. No one can see My face.”

Benedict certainly comments that this certainly is, this foreshadowing is fulfilled in a way in the New Testament, certainly, right. We see this because in the New Testament we do see the face of God, right, we see the face of God in Christ, right. In John’s gospel, in the 14th chapter, we have that beautiful interaction, right. Philip says “Lord, let us see the Father, and that will be enough for us,” right. And Jesus replied, so full of tenderness, right. He said “Phillip, have you been with Me for so long and still you do not know Me? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Jesus makes God visible to us. Moses may not have been able to see the face of God, but in Jesus, we do see the face of God.

To See Him We Must Follow Him

But in that very curious case, as Benedict points out, Moses is allowed to see the back of God. And he brings up the commentary by one of the Eastern Fathers of the church, none other than Gregory of Nyssa, and his own commentary on this passage of Moses and God. He says “What does this mean for us, other than that, in order to see God, we must follow after, right. We must follow after God.” And certainly, reading this in the light of the New Testament, Gregory says, you know, “This means for us that if we want to see God, if we want to see the face of Christ, we must follow after Him. We must be His disciples.” It is in following Christ that we can see the face of God, that we can see the face of Jesus.

And so Jesus then, as Benedict comments, Jesus gives us the itinerary for following after Him. And in this itinerary we see some central components, especially now as we enter into Holy Week, right. We’d do well to join the people in laying down our cloaks, laying down our hearts for Christ to enter, and then we must follow after Him. In our own lives as disciples, we follow after Christ. All the mysteries, again, of the Lord’s life are our mysteries. And this includes the mystery of His passion. We follow Christ into Jerusalem, we follow Him to Calvary. We all have our own crosses in life, right. But they are meant to be for us moments of transformation, moments of intimacy with God. As painful as they might be. And so I think in the light of our own theme of receiving the Lord’s healing, how might we then end our retreat with all of this in mind?

Who Do We Need to Forgive?

Well, I think we should end by really going back to the beginning, right. At the beginning, we said we might need to hit the reset button on our retreat better by taking our cue from our Eastern Christian brothers and sisters, and mentioned that, as they begin Great Lent, as they call it, they begin with something called forgiveness vespers. And during this vesper service, they all make an act of contrition, one to another. They all seek each other’s forgiveness during this service. And so, again, you know, as we close our retreat, we might do well to take this image to heart. In light of receiving the Lord’s healing, of receiving healing, but also being conduits of healing for others as well, right. This aspect of forgiveness, right, of receiving the Lord’s forgiveness.

But we might do well also, then, you know, in terms of receiving greater healing, who do I need to forgive in my life? Right. All of us through our lives, perhaps, have been wronged in some way, we’re all scarred in some way, we all have those wounds in some way, right, those spiritual wounds, right. Certainly our own sins cause wounds in us, but also the sins of others cause us to have wounded hearts as well. And so I ask you, is there anyone in your life you need to forgive? Are you holding on to resentment, and fear, and anger, and god-forbid even hatred? What is weighing down your heart? In order to receive the Lord’s healing, He invites us also to forgive.

And so as we follow Christ to Calvary, who do we need to forgive in our life? Take the Lord’s example as our model, right. He who did no wrong, right, He who was blameless, even Jesus on the cross, from the cross He utters those words of forgiveness, right. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

Who do I need to forgive in my life, right? Because once I forgive, I will experience a greater freedom. I will experience the Lord’s healing, even in that. Even if the person isn’t seeking my forgiveness, but to extend my forgiveness to that person, right. It will free my heart, right. It’s not that I’m seeking to be better, I’m not seeking to condemn, I’m not necessarily doing this out of pity, but I’m doing this so that I can be healed, so that I can practice the Lord’s exhortation to love, and to be merciful, right. But also, in a sense, if I’m making that prayer, I’m also praying for the healing of that person, right. Who knows what wounded heart, what woundedness in some heart caused that injury to us, right? But to forgive.

This might be easier said than done, right. Perhaps you were gravely offended, gravely hurt even as a child, and you’re holding on to this wound even since childhood, right, and that wound in your heart, as it does for all of us, causes us to build up those defensive walls, right, around that wound, so we won’t experience that pain. And all of the lies that might go with that wound, right. Lies of maybe feeling inferior, right, “I’m not good enough,” or it might be lies revolving around our parents, and our relationship with them as children, right. Maybe we have a wound from our parents, thinking that our mother or our father, you know, didn’t really love us, so we never felt truly accepted by them. All of these things which weigh us down, Christ wishes to give us His freedom from. And a part of that is, is to extend forgiveness, right.

Utilizing Prayer

For that too, I think it’s so important, then, that our discussion of utilizing prayer, particularly Ignatian contemplation, can be so fruitful, right. Is there someone you need to forgive in your life, and that it’s extremely difficult to? Well, imagine yourself, right, taking Ignatius’s contemplation style, imagine yourself on the cross with Christ, right. And as He utters those words, “Father forgive them.” So too maybe you can imagine that person before you and with Christ utter those say words “Forgiveness. I forgive you,” right. And allow the Lord to give you freedom to heart. Perhaps it’s too difficult for you at this moment to forgive. Well, pray. Pray for the grace to be able to forgive. Ask our Lord to forgive that person for you, right. And over time, our Lord will expand your heart, He will give you the grace in order for you to forgive genuinely, right, from your heart as well.

This will give you freedom, this will give you an increase of the Lord’s healing, but it will also make you a conduit of healing for others as well. You can also take our suffering and unite it to the cross. We can make it redemptive suffering. Uniting our suffering with the sacrifice of Calvary, offering it up for our loved ones, for the conversion of sinners. We can offer it up for those who may have hurt us, right. That God may enlighten them, that God may heal them. That they may experience the freedom which the Lord wishes to give them as well. And that in itself is an act of love. That in itself is an act of mercy on our part as well.

So, my friends, it’s been a blessing to be with you over these past 3 retreats. Let us continue to pray for each other, right, as we go forward, that the power of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery may be an ever more vibrant reality in our hearts, that the Lord may continue to transform us, that that intimate contact, that face-to-face contact with Christ in prayer, may continue to sanctify us, to transform us and bring us closer to Him. So let us continue to pray for each other as we go forward from this retreat. And, as always, let us end it with Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Closing Prayer

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Most sacred, most loving Heart of Jesus, You are concealed in the Holy Eucharist, and You beat for us still. Now as then You say, “With desire I have desired.” I worship You with all my best love and awe, with fervent affection, with my most subdued, most resolved will. For a while You take up Your abode within me. O make my heart beat with Your Heart! Purify it of all that is earthly, all that is proud and sensual, all that is hard and cruel, of all perversity, of all disorder, of all deadness. So fill it with You, that neither the events of the day, nor the circumstances of the time, may have the power to ruffle it; but that in Your love and Your fear, it may have peace. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

About Fr. Thomas P. Quinn

Fr. Thomas P. Quinn is from Montclair, New Jersey, where he grew up with his four younger sisters. From a young age he was heavily involved at his home parish, most especially in assisting the priests as an altar boy. After graduating from Catholic grammar and high schools, Fr. Tom began university studies in history at Caldwell University, a local Dominican college, where he worked for the theology department and also became involved in the college’s music program. Upon completion of his undergraduate degree, Fr. Tom began historical studies on the graduate level at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, concentrating on European History as well as the history of technology, the environment, and medicine.

Whilst undertaking graduate studies, and experiencing a deeper conversion to the Lord, childhood desires for the priesthood returned, and he entered Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University, the local major seminary for the Archdiocese of Newark. Fr. Tom was ordained in 2015 and currently serves as a parochial vicar at Saint Michael’s Parish in Cranford, NJ, where he leads the RCIA program, an apostolate for young families, young adult activities, and adult spiritual formation.