09 April 2017Palm Sunday

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Palm Sunday
Passion (Palm) Sunday - A Cycle - Matthew 26:14-27,66 or 27:11-34

In 1962, President John F Kennedy met USSR's Premier Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna. Their wives were present. The US State Department warned Mrs Kennedy to avoid the prickly Mrs Khrushchev. Mrs Kennedy did not follow the advice. She gave silver plate as a gift. Mrs Khrushchev was embarrassed, for she had no gift. She searched through her large handbag. Finally she found a cross. The premier's wife of the officially Christless USSR gave the cross to Catholic Jacqueline Kennedy. Though neither spoke each other's language, the cross served as their translator.

The ideal way to spend Holy Week is to fly to Israel. Since we will not be able to do that, our parish church is the Holy Land. Within those walls, we must be creative enough to find Jerusalem, the Upper Room, Gethsemane, Calvary, and the Tomb.

The week's focus are the Christ of Alfred Lord Tennyson: "The Lord from heaven born of a village girl. Carpenter's son. Wonderful. Prince of Peace. The Mighty God."

Today the church vestibule becomes the Bethany suburb of Jerusalem. There Jesus had spent the night at the home of friends. Hopefully He had enjoyed a good night's sleep. He would need it. Bethany was the jumping off point for His procession into Jerusalem. US News & World Report says, "It was a hero's welcome for this maverick figure, an early Palestinian equivalent of a ticker tape parade." The center aisle of the church must become for us the dusty road on which our Christ rode surrounded by cheers. As you watch the Man on the donkey pass, you might think of the lines of HE Fosdick: "Genghis Khan, Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon all perished from the earth as fleeting shadows from a glass and conquering down the centuries came Christ the swordless on an ass."

Monday, Tuesday, and Spy Wednesday of Holy Week were quiet days for the Nazarene. Wednesday is so called because, according to Matthew, Judas sold Jesus out that day for chump change. He spent them in the Great Temple of Jerusalem. For us, our church must become the Great Temple. There we go for daily Eucharist. Our theme are these words of an unknown poet: "I thought I would follow Him. But, when my feet drew near to Calvary at dead of night, I quailed in utter fear. Whereat a voice came whispering through darkness like a sea: 'Child, child, be not afraid. Your cross is occupied by me.'"

On Holy Thursday, our sanctuary becomes the Upper Room. Its altar becomes the long narrow table where Jesus sat. When He whispers, "This is my body" and "This is my blood," we remember TS Eliot's words: "In the juvenescence of the year comes Christ the tiger to be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk among whispers."

On Holy Thursday late, your church becomes the Garden of Gethsemane. There the Nazarene undergoes the dark night of the soul. Before Him is a cruel death. Our thoughts are those of Joseph Mary Plunkett, executed in the 1916 Irish rebellion: "I see His blood upon the rose and in the stars the glory of His eyes. His body gleams amid eternal snows. His tears fall from the skies."

Good Friday is a day that will live in infamy. We shall crowd into our church for services. The side aisle becomes Jerusalem's Via Dolorosa. We will follow Christ in the Stations of the Cross. We dwell on Sydney Carter's words: "I danced on Friday when the sky turned black. It's hard to dance with the devil on your back. They buried my body and they thought I'd gone."

On Holy Saturday, we come mourning to church but full of hope. Our thought could be Francis Thompson's Lilium Regis: "Look up, O most sorrowful of daughters...for His feet are coming to thee on the waters." Emerging from the church on Easter Sunday, we will shout the words of Gerard Manly Hopkins: "Let Him Easter in us. Be a dayspring to the dimness in us. Be a crimson cresseted East." Hopkins tells us because of Christ's empty tomb our hope in the resurrection is actualized.

You must think of the words of Frederica Mathewes-Green. "'Do you love me enough to tell them I have risen?' Christianity is rare among the world religions in containing an explicit command to tell unbelievers the Good News and to urge them to convert. It is an uncomfortable calling. This obligation to evangelize is perhaps the aspect most resented by those outside the faith and most neglected by those inside. It is an awkward calling. But it is a command of Jesus, as blunt as the calls to love our enemies and to care for the poor."
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday of Our Lord's Passion: Come and Celebrate Life

People remember the last days of their loved ones. Whether their mother or father, son or daughter, husband or wife, had been sick for a long time, or whether they died suddenly in an accident, those who remain can tell you in detail whatever happened in the days and hours leading to the death of someone they loved dearly. In the same way, the Passion of the Lord was chiseled into the minds of the disciples, the apostles, and the primitive Church. Every step along the way was remembered in precise detail. The early Christians committed the events to memory. They would read them or even recite them before the Breaking of the Bread. It was the first Liturgy of the Word. The Passion was not memorized out of a hatred for those who demanded the death of the Lord, or a hatred for those who so sadistically brought it about, it was remembered out of love. Our God loved us so much that He became one of us so His love could destroy the power of hatred in the world. He died so that we could join Him in dying to the world. He rose, so we could join Him in sharing eternal life.

In the beginning of the New Testament John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God, the One who would take the sins of the world upon Himself and become the eternal sacrifice to the Father. The Lamb of God appears again at the end of the New Testament. This is in the Seventh chapter of the Book of Revelation. The scene is heaven. A scroll is brought forth with writings on both sides and sealed with seven seals. The scroll is God's plan for mankind. "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals,” a mighty angel calls out. But no one in heaven or on earth could be found. The visionary wept. Then the Lamb who had been slain came forward. He was given the scroll. And the angels sang, "Worthy are you to receive the scroll and break open its seals, for you were slain. With your blood you purchased for God men of every race and tongue, of every people and nation. You made of them a Kingdom of priests to serve our God. And they shall reign over the earth. God's plan would now begin to take place.

This is what we commemorate during this, the holiest week of the Church year. We call Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday the Paschal Triduum, the three days of remembering the gift of the Lamb. Come and celebrate the Sacrifice of the Lamb, this week. Celebrate the Paschal Sacrifice. Join us on Holy Thursday evening as we offer the sacrifice of the Lord in Bread and Wine. Come and join us as we renew our determination to be a Eucharistic People, a people who wash the feet of others. Come on Good Friday and remember the death that makes life possible. Come and realize that the Love of God is infinitely more powerful than anything that evil, or the world, can do to us. Come on Easter Sunday and celebrate with joy the Victory of Jesus Christ.

Come and celebrate His Life.
Come and celebrate our lives.
May you and your families have a very Holy Week.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Palm Sunday
Best Lent Ever Week 6: Thy Will Be Done
(April 9, 2017)

Message: Like St. Henry we will not find God's will in some place apart - but right here, right now, today. And it might require great sacrifice.

Welcome to Holy Week! This week we bring to a conclusion the Best Lent Ever. In the the book we are using, Resisting Happiness, Matthew Kelly writes, "There are four words that embody the challenge of Christian life; we find them in the fifth line of the Our Father: Thy will be done. These four words present the greatest challenge of Christianity."

Jesus challenges us but he never asks us to do something he has not done. In the Garden Jesus prayed that he might not have to face terrible suffering, but each time he added, "not as I will, but your will be done!"

Jesus came precisely to do the will of the Father. If you attend the Good Friday Service, you will hear - that, by his obedience, Jesus became the source of salvation. He is the true Son and he wants us to become sons and daughters through him. That is why he taught his disciples to pray, "Father...thy kingdom come, thy will be done." What does it mean to do the will of the Father? For each of us, it will mean something different. A famous story illustrates that. Perhaps you have heard about King Henry of Bavaria. Being a man of deep piety, the intrigues of court life made him weary. Henry decided that he wanted to spend his final years in a monastery. He approached Prior Richard with the request. Fr. Richard explained the strict rules of prayer and work. King Henry listened eagerly and said he would gladly accept that discipline. The prior told the king he would have to pledge unquestioning obedience to the superior. King Henry said, yes, he knew how authority worked and he would obey the superior without question. "Then," said Prior Richard, "Go back to your throne and do your duty in the station God assigned you." The monk's words shocked the king, but he obeyed and became one of the fairest rulers in Europe. After his death, the people called for his canonization. The King who learned obedience to the Father's will is now known as St. Henry of Bavaria.

As we celebrate Holy Week, we might ask St. Henry of Bavaria to intercede for us. We may not have such a high post, but God has some task for each of us. For some it might mean simply to embrace their suffering: Not as I will, but your will be done! Like King St. Henry we will not find God's will in some place apart - but right here, right now, today. And it might require great sacrifice. This Holy Week we want Jesus' prayer to become our own: Dear Father, not as I will, but your will be done! Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Palm Sunday
Passion Sunday,Classic
Matthew 26:14-27:66

Gospel Summary
Matthew's passion narrative begins with the plot of Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus and continues through the well-known scenes: celebration of the Passover meal; the promises by Peter and all the disciples that they would never lose faith in Jesus; the agony in the garden called Gethsemane; the arrest of Jesus; the abandonment of Jesus by all his disciples; the trial; Peter's denial of Jesus; the suicide of Judas; Pilate's release of Barabbas and condemnation of Jesus to death by crucifixion; the torture and mockery by the Roman soldiers; the crucifixion accompanied by dramatic signs of a new age; the burial of Jesus..

Life Implications
Jesus began his mission with his baptism at the Jordan. The Spirit of God came upon him, and a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3:13-17). Immediately following this event, Matthew tells us that from that moment until the end Jesus would undergo temptations to reject his truth of being beloved Son, pleasing to God. The passion narrative presents the last and most severe trial of Jesus' fidelity. Every earthly reason is progressively removed for trusting in God's love, even to experiencing a horrible and shameful death on a cross. Matthew in his passion narrative gives us some insight into the mystery of how the Spirit enabled Jesus to pray through his experience of suffering and dying. It is in this pattern that the Spirit of Jesus now enables us to pray through the trials of our own life and death. Jesus begins his passion with the observance of the Passover meal with his disciples.

The structure of this sacred ritual meal consists of readings, hymns and psalms of the biblical tradition he knew so well. Through these prophecies and prayers of the Hebrew scriptures, he recognized and accepted his sacrificial role in the divine plan to create a new covenant with all humanity. Matthew mentions that after Jesus sang a final hymn with his disciples, they went out to the Mount of Olives. With three of his disciples Jesus went to a place called Gethsemane, where he began to feel sorrow and distress. Here again, now foreseeing his imminent suffering and death, Jesus prays, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will" (Mt 26:39). Finally, Jesus dying upon a cross, cries out in prayer the heart-rending plea of the twenty-second psalm: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Mt 27:46)? In his dark night of the soul, emptied now of every human evidence of God's loving presence, Jesus is sustained in hope through the pure light of faith. Trusting that even in this fearful moment of dying he is beloved Son, Jesus freely gives up his life into God's hands (Mt 27:50).. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

Palm Sunday, Modern
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Lectionary 37 and 38 Gospel Matthew 26: 14-27:66

The first processional antiphon for Palm Sunday reads, "The children of the Hebrews, carrying olive branches, went to meet the Lord, crying out and saying: 'Hosanna in the highest’”. The "children of the Hebrews” are the subject of this acclamation although that phrase appears nowhere in the Bible.

The precision of those words, and the fact that they do not come from the Bible, caught my notice and made me reflect on the journey of the "children of the Hebrews” and on our closeness to them. Two sons of the Hebrew people in particular emerge in the gospel for Palm Sunday as illustrating the possibilities that face every human person, no matter their race or nation, at the end of our earthly journey: life and death, redemption and despair, the blessing and the curse.

The gospel reading of the passion from St. Matthew describes these two men in terms of their profound betrayals of Jesus: the betrayal committed by Peter and that committed by Judas. Both men were part of God’s chosen people, both were elected by Jesus to be members of his most intimate band of disciples, and both were accompanied by him on their journey of faith just as we are.

Peter and Judas walked together with Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, they dined with him at the last supper, they sinned against him in ways that stand in the spotlight of world history—and that crouch in the shadows of every person’s heart of darkness. In a real sense, Peter and Judas dwell in each one of us, not only on account of our common capacity for sin, but on account of our common longing to cure the effects of sin in our lives.

Peter found resolution to the sin that marked the cardinal moment of his life by lamenting it and turning back to Christ, and thereby obtaining forgiveness and a new beginning. John tells us that Peter would later be commissioned by the risen Lord to be the chief pastor of his earthly flock and to give his life in witness to Jesus (see John 21:15-19). Judas on the other hand is so racked by the horror of his betrayal that he despairs of forgiveness and takes his own life, thinking that the only resolution to his action was death itself.

While we share with the "children of the Hebrews” in human weakness, we hold as well to the same hope for wholeness and forgiveness that they demonstrate time and time again. We believe as Catholics that this wholeness which is variously called salvation, redemption, justification, and reconciliation comes only through Jesus Christ. At the same time we believe that this treasure of divine grace which we hold in earthen vessels is found at least partially in many signs and movements of the spirit which animate our brothers and sisters who have yet to hear the gospel in its fullness.

We maintain also that the victory over sin and death in which we rejoice on Easter Sunday will in God’s own mysterious design bring salvation to the "children of the Hebrews”, for "if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead”, and because "the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:15, 29).

This year, in the very same days when the Jewish people celebrate Passover we mark our own observance of the Paschal mystery. Passover represents liberation from servitude, including sin in all of its dimensions, and the beginning of the long journey of Israel with God as his uniquely chosen people.

As we begin Holy Week, let us not forget that we too are a pilgrim people, making our journey of faith in this life by walking together not just with the "children of the Hebrews” but with the children of God of all nations and all ages—ultimately tracing the footsteps of Jesus himself, who humbled himself to share in our humanity, that we might share in his divinity, and might follow him into his Kingdom.

Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Palm Sunday

Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS

Today we begin Holy Week by marking Christ's entry into Jerusalem. But, like most other things that Christ did, the significance of his entry into the city escaped the notice of the officials and leaders of the people. His undistinguished entry into the Holy City riding on a donkey to the shouts of the bystanders and the waving of palms certainly would not have been seen by the authorities as the arrival of the long-foretold Messiah.

While this little procession escaped the notice of the religious elite it definitely does seem to have caught the imagination of the poor. St Matthew says that there were great crowds of people there spreading their cloaks on the road and waving palms while shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.' When they were asked what was happening they replied that they were welcoming Jesus of Nazareth.

These poor people definitely knew who Jesus really was. Reports of his teaching and his miracles had already reached them and most likely their hearts were full of hope that he could work a few miracles in their midst.

The people would already have heard of such remarkable achievements as the raising of Lazarus which took place just a few days before only two miles from the city, as well as other dramatic events such as the feeding of the five thousand. While this was long before the age of newspapers and the mass media, the swift transmission of gossip would have ensured that Jesus' reputation went ahead of him.

The poor would also have been very much aware of Christ's teaching. They would know that he was not part of the religious elite, they would know that he was not forcing religious and moral conformity on them. They would understand very well his message of peace and love and realise that the way that he was proposing was for the betterment of all mankind. It is certain that one of the reasons they welcomed him so heartily was because they wanted to hear more of his teaching.

It didn't matter to Jesus that he was not welcomed by the High Priests or the leaders of the people. He was more interested in the poor anyway. He came to Jerusalem to bring about the salvation of everyone who was willing to accept his message of love. It was obvious then that his message would find acceptance among the poor and the powerless. It was those with vested interests who would take exception to it. It is only they who would feel threatened by the things that Jesus said and did.

Jesus knew perfectly well that continuing to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to the people was going to end up with him being handed over to the authorities and eventually put to death. But Jesus was perfectly willing to do whatever had to be done because he, above all, was aware of the importance of his mission to bring salvation to the whole world. The whole Church now in a solemn way, through the liturgy, celebrates the events of that last great fateful week of Jesus' life. We will accompany Christ to the Upper Room, to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the Praetorium, to the Hill of Calvary and then go with his body to the tomb in the hillside.

We will witness all the events of Christ's Passion. We will accompany him with fervent prayer, we will confess our sins, we will receive the sacraments and we will experience the desolation of Calvary as well as the joy of Easter Sunday morning. This is indeed a solemn week. It is a week we during which we should attempt to enrich our faith and deepen our fidelity to Christ our Saviour.
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