(Palm Sunday: Mark 11:1-10; Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1—15:47)
The readings for Palm Sunday create unexpected pairings. In the first Gospel passage, Jesus is recognized by the crowd as the one who comes in the name of the Lord, before whom they shout ‘Hosanna.’ Later the crowd clamors for his crucifixion. On Calvary, the Roman centurion supervising the crucifixion of Jesus comes to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
The Psalm, which begins with a famous cry of despair, ends on a note of exultation. God’s servant described by Isaiah is treated shamefully, yet firmly believes he will not be put to shame. And St. Paul portrays Jesus as emptying and humbling himself, obedient to the point of death, but also as exalted, given a name above all other names—Lord.
It ought not to surprise us to find similar pairings at La Salette. Mary appears in heavenly light, but she weeps. She speaks of the dire consequences of lost faith, and yet does so with infinite gentleness. She gives an important mission to two children who can scarcely make sense of what she has said to them.
When we look at the Church, we find much the same. The brilliant English author G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) pointed out many paradoxes which one finds in the Church: variously criticized as “the enemy of women, and their foolish refuge;” a “solemn pessimist and a silly optimist,” who produced “fierce crusaders and meek saints;” the list goes on at some length. He sums up his thoughts with the central paradox of Christian theology: “Christ was not a being apart from God and man, like an elf, nor yet a being half human and half not, like a centaur, but both things at once and both things thoroughly, very man and very God.”
This pairing of “true man and true God” is indeed at the very center of our faith. Hard as it is to understand, we proclaim it in our creed.
These are not simply theological musings. They say a lot about us as well. As Christians we are a paradox; we are aware of the contradictions within ourselves, sinners and saints that we are, individually and as Church. The La Salette call to conversion must be taken seriously, but we will never be able to say: Now I am holy. And yet we do not despair of reaching that goal under the watchful eye of the Beautiful Lady.