Apr 7, 2017
The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack…
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me.
Indeed, it is so. Sometimes, I think I lack inspiration, like this week, for instance. Palm Sunday was approaching. What should I write about? No ideas were tapping on the windshield of my imagination. So I innocently asked in the Parish Office, “What should I write about this week?” And a precocious voice responded, “Why don’t you write about what a wonderful staff you have?” That was sort of like a big rock hitting the windshield. I said I thought that was an interesting idea but I didn’t see how I could relate that to Palm Sunday.
But it turns out that this was an inspired idea and as you will see, it does relate to Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday was the high point of Jesus’ career in this world. Everything that he as a human being would have hoped for was at the point of being accomplished. Everything the downtrodden Jewish people were hoping for seemed to be on the verge of happening. The people of King David’s city, the site of the temple, were welcoming Jesus and acclaiming him as king and Messiah. How did this happen to come about?
We read in the Gospels all about Jesus… his challenges, his teachings, his miracles. That is fitting. Jesus is God, after all. But God works not just through and in the human body of Jesus, but also through humanity and the stuff of this earth. Jesus was not a one-man show. Jesus was (and is) the head of a movement, head of an organization which has persisted down to this day, the Church.
It did not look like much back then, at least in terms of what we know as organizations today. But there were committed disciples with assigned tasks; at one point Jesus commissioned and sent out 72 of them to preach and heal in his name. There were the 12 Apostles, his intimate associates whom he was mentoring and preparing for leadership. Judas was treasurer, as we know. And there was an elite executive committee of Peter, James, and John.
There was some tension and political squabbling in this organization, but Jesus led effectively and held them together and focused on their mission.
St. Luke tells us: Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. Lk 8:1-3
We hear in the Gospel about Palm Sunday that Jesus sent one of his disciples, that is one of his staff, into Jerusalem to get a donkey for him on which to ride into Jerusalem. Undoubtedly, they had sent word on ahead that Jesus was coming. We hear later that Jesus, who was staying outside the city, sent his staff to Jerusalem to find the place and make arrangements for Jesus to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem with his disciples. All the complex details of his movements and his ministry were handled by this disciplined and apostolic staff that gave Jesus the freedom to preach and teach and lead and heal and, very importantly, the time to pray. No wonder the Romans were nervous and the Sanhedrin jealous and suspicious.
Jesus’ staff had its difficult moments even before his arrest. Finding that thousands had followed Jesus far out into the countryside to listen to him and that the hour was late and no food was available, they rightly worried. This was the sort of thing that could get out of hand or generate disillusionment, the first century equivalent of bad press. They tried to protect Jesus from the crowds, sometimes hiding him, to no avail. They tried keeping children away, and gentiles too. But their every misstep was a learning experience that teaches us too.
Without Peter, without John the Evangelist, without Matthew and young Mark and those others who only spoke about Jesus, both to those who wrote about him and all others who would listen… if not for this loyal staff who supported Jesus’ mission of teaching and healing, we probably would never know about Jesus. They are all solid rocks in the foundation of the Church. This apostolic and ministerial and clerical staff was in God’s plan, and they were necessary for Jesus to be effective in human society, and they still are.
Many of you know the parish staff. They are both wonderful people and wonderful at what they do for me, but more especially for you. They are the ones that make St. Anselm Parish work for you. Thank God for our parish staff.