Palm Sunday: Devotion and Denial

Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, by Hippolyte Flandrin
Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, by Hippolyte Flandrin

Biola Lent Project has a Lent devotional calendar posted.  The daily entries are multi-sensory, with a written devotional, an image, and music.  Here is the link to the Palm Sunday entry:  April 13, 2014.  In it, the author speaks of the attitudes shown by the faces in the crowd in Flandrin’s painting, and how they reflect us today, too, even though we know something that those people did not yet know about–Jesus’ resurrection.  It ends with this simple prayer (of St. Benedict):

O gracious and holy Father,
give us wisdom to perceive you,
diligence to seek you,
patience to wait for you,
eyes to behold you,
a heart to meditate on you,
and a life to proclaim you;
through the power of the Spirit
of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

For further meditation, please read this older entry on Palm Sunday from RBC’s Our Daily Bread that I came across (Joanie Yoder, February 28, 2001).

Lent is a period of 40 days prior to Easter (excluding Sundays). For many people it commemorates Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness. They “give up something” for Lent every year, like sweets or TV. This can yield spiritual benefits, but denying yourself things and denying yourself aren’t the same. In Luke 9:23, Jesus taught the latter.

This verse can be broken down into three parts. In the statement “If anyone desires to come after Me,” the word desires indicates that this is for sincere disciples only. In the phrase “let him deny himself,” the words let and denyhimself imply a willingness to renounce one’s selfish will and ways. And in the statement “take up his cross daily,” the word daily emphasizes a continual dying to self-will.

It’s easier to give things than to give ourselves. Yet Jesus gave Himself, and so must we. To those who deny themselves in obedient service, He has promised, “Whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (v.24). And to His question, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed?” we are called to answer, “There is no profit!” We show that we believe this when we deny ourselves and follow Christ.

To follow Christ we must let go
Of all that we hold dear;
And as we do deny ourselves,
Our gains become more clear. —Sper

By living for ourselves we die; by dying to ourselves we live.

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