5 April 2020Palm 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 the Lord's Passion: Redemptive Suffering

The restrictions due to the corona virus will most probably prevent us from assembling for Passion Sunday.  We can still remember what Passion Sunday signifies to us.  Two of the Gospels from the weekday Masses of the Fifth Week of Lent catch my attention.  In one Gospel Jesus condemns the religious leaders of the Jewish people for refusing to recognize the Messiah.  The question that occurred to me was, "How could those who spent their lives in religion miss the Christ standing right in front of them?"  I am convinced that they their fatal flaw resulted from their deciding that they had all the answers among themselves and within themselves.  We can easily make this mistake ourselves.  God's Presence in the world is far greater than we could ever imagine.   His Power is deeper than we could ever achieve ourselves.  Wrapped up in themselves, the Jewish leaders missed the Power and Presence of the Lord.  If we are wrapped up into ourselves, we will also miss His Presence.

The second Gospel from this week that caught my attention contained Jesus' proclamation that when He is lifted up He would draw all people to Himself.  The suffering of our Lord was necessary for all people.  Christianity is not just a belief system for a select group of people.  All people are saved by Jesus Christ, even good people searching for God, who have not received the grace to become Christian.  By dying on the cross, Jesus re-established mankind's ability to be united to God. Jesus' death gives all people spiritual life.  This is what we mean when we use the term: redemptive suffering.

In the mystery of the Redemptive Suffering of the Lord, we participate in the cross of Christ.  St. Paul put it this way in his Letter to the Colossians: "in my body I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His Body, which is the Church."   We all are.  We all are making up for what is lacking. But how can their be a deficiency in Christ's sacrifice?  The answer is this: we are entrusted with the proclamation of the Kingdom of God.  The only way we can do this is by living the Life of Christ.  That is why we are called Christians.  We make Christ real in the world.  Our living His Life includes our embracing His Sacrifice.  We unite our pains and sorrows to the Lord as our part in making the presence of the Suffering Savior real in the world. 

I wish I could tell you that pain does not exist and that you can make it go away with your mind. The pandemic that is the corona virus has certainly reminded us of our human condition. Suffering is part of our lives.  One of the great beauties of our faith is that there is value in every aspect of the Christian's life, even those aspects of life that are full of pain. Therefore, we give it all to the Lord.   We give Him our joy and our pain.  If our health is poor or failing, if our lives are not going as we hoped, whatever pain we have, we give it to Him.  We unite everything to the cross so others can experience the Sacrificial Love of Jesus in our lives.  Let me ask you this, "Have you ever met a truly holy person?"   If you have, and I am sure we all have, we cannot help but realize that for that person pain is secondary.  The only thing that matters for him or her is Christ.  Moreover, his or her very suffering provides us with the experience of Christ's Redemptive Presence.  He or she is making up for what is lacking in the Cross of Christ: the participation of His people.

We focus on the cross today, and throughout this Holy Week. We unite our pains to Jesus' pains.  We receive His healing through His Cross.  We bring His healing to others by allowing them to experience the Power of the Cross at work in our lives. We are called to participate in Redemptive Suffering.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Palm Sunday

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Palm Sunday

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Palm Sunday

Today we celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and we begin that great week we know as Holy Week in which we commemorate the last hours of Christ's life on hearth and his glorious resurrection.

We have just read St Matthew's account of the passion to remind ourselves just what this week is all about and how important it is that we keep this week holy in honour of our Saviour who gave his life for our sakes.

On Good Friday we will hear the same passion story in the words of St John. By publicly reading these two passion accounts and by participating in them, we are helping the significance of these extraordinary events to sink home. They may have happened two thousand years or so ago, but in a certain sense they are happening right here and now.

Today is Palm Sunday and we commemorate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of that fateful week. His whole life had been a preparation for this final entry into Jerusalem. It could be said that by entering Jerusalem he was precipitating all that was to follow. It was a deliberate choice, he was deciding to do what had to be done, he was choosing to fulfil his purpose here on earth.

Jesus enters Jerusalem as a Messiah, but not the Messiah that was expected. Every word of the scriptures is fulfilled but his entry is not heralded by armies, angels or soldiers, he is not accompanied by dignitaries and guards. Those who welcome him to the Holy City are not rulers or priests.

No, he comes as simply as he could: he rides a donkey, his followers are fishermen and other working men and he is greeted not by the civic and religious authorities but by the common folk waving palms.

In one way everything is done properly and in accordance with what was prophesied, but looking through other eyes it is utterly shambolic and hopeless. The doubters, and those who do not understand, see nothing but a raggle-taggle group of itinerants coming up for the feast. They are blind to the significance of what they see.

But those with eyes of faith see what has been longed for by so many. They see the solemn entry of the Messiah into his Holy City to take possession of it. They see the culmination of the history of the Chosen People of Israel. They see Jesus enter Jerusalem and the stage set for the most climactic and significant drama of all time to take place.

By entering Jerusalem in such a way, sitting on a ridiculous donkey and accompanied by the poor and the lowly, Jesus is making a definitive statement about what kind of Messiah he is.

He is stating that he is a Messiah for the humble and the destitute, the disadvantaged and the outcast, the sick and the lame.

He is stating that he has come to liberate the oppressed, to comfort the broken-hearted and to heal the sick. He is a Messiah who comes to save what was lost, to reconcile the sinner and to lead his people into the ways of peace.

He comes not to rule but to serve, he comes not for glory but for salvation.

Let us rejoice and praise God that he has given us so great a redeemer!
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