Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for Palm Sunday: "In these dark days, an old world is dying -- May a renewed world rise in Christ!"

Palm Sunday

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, April 5, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

We open now the way of Holy Week, a painful week, in the image of the time of epidemic we are going through. For the ceremonies, the churches' doors, as well as the houses' doors, will remain closed.

May the Lord come and visit us, as His disciples after His resurrection, “Januis clausis,” the doors being closed. He will make light of any closed door, if the hearts' doors are open to Him. Far away from the churches, revive your family liturgy by the meditation of the so rich liturgical texts, the Rosary, the practice of a true charity between yourselves. Dioceses and communities make several tools available.

Imitate the Apostles before Pentecost:

All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren. (Acts 1:14)

Pope Pius XII used to say, “A family that prays is a family that lives”, and St. John Paul II, “A family united in prayer remains united.”

This morning already, the Mass, and especially its two readings, plunge us into the Paschal mystery, the death and resurrection of the Lord. A hostile throng demands Barabbas’ freedom, and obtains the crucifixion of Him Whom it had hailed as the Son of David, the King of Israel, the Blessed One that comes in the name of the Lord.

Barrabas’ release manifests, albeit unintentionally, the effect of the redemption carried out by Christ: through His death, the guilty is set free. But the throng clamoring for the criminal’s freedom is addressing the wrong interlocutor. They shouldn’t be addressing Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, but God, the source of all true power. Pontius Pilate, as he washes his hands, makes himself, along with the throng, complicit in an intrinsically iniquitous gesture, even though this gesture co-operates in the plan of God.

At the beginning of this Holy Week, we might search our own souls, so as to acknowledge both our condition of guilty creatures, and the reality of the salvation the Lord has so often obtained for us. Still, does it mean we truly live as creatures saved at the price of His blood? Wouldn’t we be responsible for the fact that our world has turned away from God? Do we even believe we need a Savior?

St. Paul recommended to us to have the same mind as Christ Jesus. At the beginning of his letter, he gave the Philippians this encouragement:

He Who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus. (Ph 1:6)
And after that, he continued:

Now, as always, Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by my life or my death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Ph 1:20-21)
The disciple is not above his Master. Remembering Christ’s Passover, His passing from death to life, leads us to our own passover, this passing that should be made after Christ and in His footsteps, and with His help.

What is the disposition of mind we should bring into play? We know it well: love, generosity, humility, forgiveness, obedience to God, self-giving. More radically, if we truly want our lives to be Christ, it is our whole being that should convert, not only what we do. Let us boldly confront this question.

Christ obedient unto death, and the shameful death of the cross, entrusts His soul to His Father. The Father gives Him the Name above all names. Christ’s death and resurrection, that is the whole of the Paschal mystery. When we die to sin, Christ’s death is fulfilled in us. When Christ rises, He raises us to life with Him.

During these days, let us take time with the Crucified, both personally and together as a family. Let us ask for each other, let us ask for our families, our communities, for our country, and for the whole world, through the intercession of Mary standing at the foot of the Cross, the grace to live a week that should not be holy merely because of the events taking place in it, but above all because of the conversion of our hearts and the reception of the grace of Easter.

In these days that are dark, but pregnant with hope, an old world is dying. May there rise in Christ a renewed world.