The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Homily: Palm Sunday

A long Palm Sunday reading of the Passion, and so a short homily...

Readings: Mt 21:1-11; Is 50:4-7; Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24; Phil 2:6-11; Mt 26:14-27:66

It's always a little difficult to know what to say after the Passion narrative. Really, what can you say? What we’ve heard is clear, precise, even dramatic in its impact – almost too much to take in at once. And so over this Holy Week we’ll consider and celebrate, part by part, day by day, the Last Supper, the arrest, the death and the burial of Jesus, and his glorious Resurrection from the dead.

But today we encounter the unsettling contrast between our two Gospel readings. Oh, yes, as Christians we welcome Christ. We hold our palm branches, and shout, "Hosanna!" But on whose terms do we welcome Him?

2000 years ago they welcomed someone they thought would be another David, who’d gather an army, and make Israel great again…until they realized that Jesus was not this sort of king. Instead they saw a man who’d be summarily executed like a slave or petty criminal, a man of no consequence. And so the disillusionment, the resentment, the anger set in. Oh, yes, they wanted a savior, their kind of savior.

It's hard to be overly critical, because we would likely do the same thing. We too pick up the palm branches of welcome, but too often want to live our lives on our own terms. And like the people of Jerusalem, we even expect God to meet our terms and conditions.

We’re have no problem demanding that God rearrange the world and its people to conform to our plans, our timetables, our politics, to remove any burdens we may be asked to carry. And if our terms and conditions aren’t met…well, we too can put down the palms and reach for the cross -- not to shoulder it ourselves, but to force it once again on Jesus. Yes, we too want a Savior created in our image.

Jesus didn't suffer and die on the cross for this. He did it out of love, love for each one of us – not a generic but an individual love. Look at the hands of the crucified and glorified Jesus. Do you know what you’ll see? You’ll see your name written on His palms, right next to the nail holes of crucifixion.

As Jesus died on the cross, He pictured your face. Your name was on His lips. He died for you, knowing everything about you. He died because of your sins and consciously for love of you. When we finally come to accept that we are loved individually with a perfect, infinite, and divine love – a crucified love – our lives must change. We must throw our palms and ourselves at Jesus’ feet in worship. Only then, when we finally realize the depth of this love, can we undergo the conversion, the change of heart, that Jesus seeks in each of us.

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Every time we participate in the Eucharist, we repeat these same words. We call Him, and He comes. Jesus comes into His Church under the appearance of a little bread and wine, and so prepares us for his ultimate coming in unequalled glory! Never forget this! Honoring Him as the King of Glory, you and I can let Him rule our hearts and minds, our lives and our homes.

Living in His love, we too must live, suffer, and die for Him who is Love, “so that at Jesus’ name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!”

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