5 April 2020: Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

The Victory and Glory …

Today we begin the Holy Week.  We never had such a sad Holy Week as we keep away from church, not actively participating in the most important paschal celebration of Jesus Christ, our Savior.  We are all isolated keeping a social distance from one another. We are all sad at the death of thousands of people all over the world, we feel the agony of those suffering from this pandemic and their families.  We all pray together for the wellbeing of doctors and nurses who risk their own lives while taking care of their patients.  On the other-hand this Holy Week may become a most holy one as we come closer to Jesus in his suffering and agony that he had to undergo, and I am sure this year’s celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord will bring a greater joy to every one of us.

Holy Week liturgy presents for us the actual events of the dying and rising of Jesus. The liturgy enables us to experience in our lives here and now what Jesus went through then. In this Holy Week we pray to God to forgive us our sins, heal the wounds in us caused by our sins and the sins of others and transform us more completely into the image and likeness of God. In this way, we will be able to live more fully the divine life we received at Baptism.

The Church celebrates today as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday.  Today’s liturgy combines two contrasting moments of glory and suffering –  the welcome of Jesus in Jerusalem and the drama of his trial culminating in his crucifixion.  We can reflect and pray on various aspects today, but the first point I like to stress is that:  The victory and glory that comes before suffering and death is not lasting but the victory and glory that comes through suffering and death is the real lasting one.  The celebration of today, as Palm Sunday, shows the victory and glory that comes before suffering and death.  People spread their clothes on the road and on the donkey and Jesus was riding on it.   People greeted Him with “Hosanna” to the King of David which meant “God save the king of Israel.”

In the second part of today’s gospel, we listen to the Passion of Christ.  What we commemorate and relive during this week is not just Jesus’ dying and rising, but our own dying and rising in Him, which result in our healing, reconciliation, and redemption.  The real glory, we find in Jesus when he overcame suffering and death and resurrected from the dead. 

We share that glory with Jesus when we take our sufferings in this life and offer them with the sufferings of Christ and die with Jesus.  We have to die with him in our selfishness, in our pride, in our sinfulness.  We have to rise with him in love, compassion, peace and joy.  That will bring us lasting glory and victory.  We are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the story like Judas who betrayed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience, Herod who ridiculed Jesus and the leaders of the people who preserved their position by getting rid of Jesus, Peter who denied Jesus and repented later, Simon of Sirene who helped Jesus to carry his cross, Veronica who courageously wiped the face of Jesus, the Jerusalem women who consoled and wept with Jesus.  How is our behavior and actions in our discipleship?  Above all we are to be with Jesus in a very special way during this week.

In this holy week let us ask ourselves a few questions:

1) Do I welcome Jesus into my heart?  Am I ready to surrender my life to Him during this Holy Week and welcome him into all areas of my life as my Lord and Savior, singing “hosanna”? Let the Palms remind us that Christ is the king of our families, that Christ is the king of our hearts, that Christ is the only true answer to our quest for happiness and meaning in our lives.

2) Are we ready to become like the humble donkey that carried Jesus? 
As we “carry Jesus” to the world, we can expect to receive the same welcome that Jesus received on Palm Sunday, but we must also expect to meet the same opposition, crosses and trials later.   Like the donkey, we are called upon to carry Christ to others enabling them to see Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness and sacrificial service.

3) Are we willing to follow Jesus . . . not just to church but in our daily life? Are we willing to entrust ourselves to him even when the future is frightening or confusing, believing God has a plan? Are we willing to serve him until that day when his plan on earth is fulfilled? If we do, we will be enriched with the new life Jesus offers to each one of us.

Therefore, let us pray:

Lord, give us the grace to welcome you into our hearts and surrender our lives to the king of kings.  Give us the strength to carry Jesus, like the donkey in today’s Gospel reading, to others enabling them to see Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness and sacrificial service.  Lord give us the grace to follow you faithfully in our suffering and death so that we share the eternal glory brought by Jesus through his suffering death.  We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.  Amen

(Homily by Fr. Emmanuel, Pastor of Holy Faith Church, Gainesville)

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