16 March 2008 Palm Sunday
Matthew 21, 1-11; Psalm 22, 8-24 Finding the Lost
I was worried about two things last night: the gala of Dakilang Pag-ibig, our tribute concert to Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros SJ and my homily for Palm Sunday. In the concert, Ernald Andal SJ sang Fr. Honti’s “Ang Mabuting Pastol” — my favorite version among all the songs about the Good Shepherd. Then, it struck me: the Gospels I read in the season of Lent where about finding something or someone who was lost! The shepherd gathering into his arms the lost sheep; the father embracing his lost son, and the woman finding her lost coin. We have stories of people finding something very important to them: the blind having his sight back, the adulteress regaining her integrity, Zacchaeus discovering how much he owed those whom he cheated, the woman recovering her health, the mute being able to talk again, and the woman who wiped the feet of Jesus discovering forgiveness.
In Palm Sunday, we wave our branches to be blessed. We are re-enacting the Triumphal entry of Jesus in Jerusalem when the people used branches and their garments to welcome Jesus. It seems that the people have found who was lost to them. Like a prince who has gone to war and has returned to his home and his people, Jesus returns to his people and the Temple, the house of His father.
But in reality, we are the ones who are lost. And it is God who searches and finds us. Sinusundo na tayo. How do we experience this? If we look closely in our hearts, we will find that we have lost something or someone we treasure. We may have lost our self-respect, our patience, or our capacity to understand another. We may have lost our sense of well-being and hope or even our desire to pray. We may have lost a friend or a family member has passed away. Sometimes we cannot identify or put our finger into what we have lost. Something eats into our hearts that we cannot ignore or run away from it any longer. We become restless. We pace around or for some, stare into space. We feel that we are abandoned, as Psalm 22 says. We are not at home with ourselves. Nababagabag tayo pero hindi natin alam kung bakit. Tinatanong natin kung may direksyon pa ang ating buhay. Nawawala tayo sa ating sarili. And the gnawing feeling is God’s nagging us to return home.
But we cannot find it unless there is a hunger in our lives that would catapult us to return home seriously and search with our whole being. This is the reason for our fasting: we fast so that we may discover that hunger for God and for what we have lost. Maybe we can also find something in abstinence: we can avoid eating what we like or buying what we want, so that we may find the value of caring for the poor — by feeding the hungry or the giving something to the poor, visiting institutions for the aged or the handicapped. Note that the Church gives an option: abstinence or works of mercy. Either way, we find the value of charity. Or we may indeed try to reflect on what we have lost, and try to regain it by restoring our broken relationships or finding extra time for prayer to restore our desire for God.
And perhaps, you may want to rediscover the beauty of your family whom you have neglected because of busyness in your studies by spending the Holy Week with them. This is my suggestion to students: when you all return home to the provinces for the holy week, look closely at your family and appreciate who they are. Pagmasdan mo sila nang mas malapitan. Come to think of it: when we return home, and see the faces of the members of your family who are overjoyed by your returning home, almost like waving handkerchieves like palm branches once your plane lands. Much like the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. On God’s part, it is Him who has lost us to our sinfulness, and now has found us. Allow God to find you.