Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion


Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Posted for March 20, 2016
Palm Sunday

We begin Holy Week by remembering Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I say triumphal but actually it wasn’t very triumphal at all. It was much more like a raggedy procession of hobbledehoys greeted by the poor and downtrodden.

But for all its hopelessness it was indeed a procession and it certainly marked the formal entry into Jerusalem of Christ, the long awaited Messiah.

The key concept we need to employ here is the one of paradox. If you want to understand anything about Jesus then you have to understand paradox. Everything is the opposite to what it seems and everything that he does appears to the outside world to be a contradiction.

If Christ is the Messiah, the long heralded King of Israel, the King of all Kings, then his entry into Jerusalem should have been accompanied by all the signs and trappings of earthly kingship. There should have been a splendid welcome laid on by the priests and the whole populace should have been out to meet him with the great and the good at the very front.

But what we actually what we have is a few raggle-taggle poor people waving palms and singing Hosanna. So inconsistent and unreliable a bunch were they that we have no trouble assuming that some of them might even have turned up in the crowd who shouted “Crucify him, crucify him” later that same week.

But this is all of a piece with everything we know about Jesus. He shuns the limelight, he avoids publicity, he is one who is completely uninterested in outward appearances and is only concerned with things of the heart. He is indeed the ultimate paradox.

Here is a King who wants to rule by means of love alone; a King who wants not to dominate but to serve; a King whose greatest interest is in humility and lowliness rather than honour and power. Here is a King who gives his life for his people.

We begin today a very serious week of prayer and increased devotion as we shift our focus more closely on to the suffering and death of Christ. It is a week during which we accompany Christ in his last hours and draw close to him in his suffering and death. It is a week during which we face up to our own sinfulness and express deep sorrow for our transgressions. It is a week of increased faith and trust in God.

I urge each and every one of you to take this week seriously. Yes we all have to go to work and do whatever it is we do during every other week of the year but it is vital that we make this week different. It is essential that we make this a more spiritual week, a week of renewed prayer, a week of deep devotion.

The Church observes this Holy Week in its liturgy but also at certain times by its lack of liturgy. We celebrate mass on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as usual but we do so thinking most especially about those days in Jerusalem and what they have come to mean.

However, on Maundy Thursday we celebrate no mass except the solemn liturgy of the Lord’s Supper in the evening after which the altar is stripped and the Blessed Sacrament removed to the Altar of Repose.

Then on Good Friday again no mass is celebrated but instead we have the very moving Liturgy of the Passion at three o’clock during which we commemorate Christ’s death on the Cross in a most solemn way.

Again on Holy Saturday there is one single liturgy of the Easter Vigil when we light the Easter Fire and celebrate as well as we can the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is important to attend these ceremonies, it is essential to mark these important events which are so vital for the life of the world.

Everyone else in the world takes advantage of a couple of days off work to give themselves some leisure time and we should do the same. But we must not neglect the liturgy; we must not neglect our Christian duty to commemorate in a liturgical way these crucial incidents in the life of Christ.

Today we begin by singing Hosanna and waving our Palms. We remember the scruffy procession that entered Jerusalem, that brought the King of Creation into the Holy City on the back of a humble donkey. We rejoice and we acknowledge that we are citizens of heaven, true members of his Kingdom of Love.

And we ready ourselves to commemorate later in this week of weeks in a most solemn way the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and Christ’s glorious Resurrection.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion: A Call to Faith

Where had they gone, all those people who greeted the Lord with such exuberance during his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem? Where had they gone, now that He has left the city in a completely different type of triumph, the Triumph of the Cross? There were only a handful of people at the foot of the cross. The people who were there were the people who loved Him more than their own lives. The people who were there were people of faith, faith that God the Father would prevail even as Goodness was crucified. How horrible the other disciples of the Lord must have felt when they realized that they did not have enough faith to stand beneath the cross with Mary, John and those few others.

Palm Sunday, Year C—March 20, 2016

“Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, the King of Israel.  Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt 21:9)
Gospel (Read Lk 22:14-23:56)
On Palm Sunday, Catholics all over the globe, in every nation and time zone, in public and sometimes in secret, stand at attention to hear the longest Gospel narrative of the entire liturgical year.  This riveting episode needs no interpretation.  Young and old, male and female, educated and uneducated, sophisticated and simple—all of us are caught up in the story and understand it.  Why is it so universally accessible?  The answer must be because it is a truly human drama, with the kinds of characters, action, plots and subplots, emotions, twists and turns that all of us know.  Who among us has not experienced something of betrayal, fear, humiliation, misrepresentation, powerlessness, malice from others, remorse, and dark foreboding?  This Passion story is not one told in philosophical, theological, or metaphorical language.  No, this story is our story, full of the truths of life that no one ever has to teach us.


Mother Teresa and Four Others to Be Canonized This Year

VATICAN CITY — After months of anticipation, the date of Mother Teresa’s canonization has finally been announced. It falls on Sept. 4, which this year will also mark a special jubilee for workers and volunteers of mercy.
Though it’s been rumored for months that Mother Teresa’s canonization will take place Sept. 4, the Vatican made the date official during a March 15 consistory of cardinals.


The Only Mistake You Can Make

When we get this close to Holy Week, many Catholics are looking back over their efforts since Ash Wednesday and grading them “E” for “echhh.”
Maybe your Lent hasn’t been very meaningful because you’ve just been slacking off, because Lent is hard. Maybe you just don’t feel like reining in even your little bad habits. Or maybe you could probably manage to change some physical habit, but the idea of facing God sincerely is just a little too much, and you’d just . . . rather not. You’re not proud of it, but your plan is to keep your head down so as not to attract attention, and soon it will be Easter and you can eat candy and feel guilty, and then you’ll be safely back in ordinary time before you know it.
Not cool, Catholics. Not cool.


Witnessed by Millions: The Confounding Apparition of Our Lady of Zeitoun

Israel had just prevailed in the Six-Day War the previous year. Egypt lost the Sinai Peninsula to Israel. On both sides, passions were high and people were scared. The whole Middle East was in turmoil.
And it was in the midst of this chaos that Our Lady appeared.
It was the evening of April 2, 1968. A Muslim bus mechanic named Farouk Mohammed Atwa was working across the street from St. Mary Coptic Church in Zeitoun, a district of Cairo, Egypt. The church is revered as one of the locations Christians believe the Holy Family stayed during their flight to Egypt.


The Cry and the Great Silence

It’s where God intervenes to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac. It is from a burning bush on a mountain that God reveals himself to Moses as the great ‘I am’ and promises deliverance of the Israelites. And it is again at a mountaintop that Moses glimpses God and receives the Ten Commandments. Elijah sacrifices on a mountain and hears the sound of God in the heights. And it is from a similar vantage point that Ezekiel has one of his prophetic visions.

Where is Truth?

In a recent column, I discussed the definition of truth as “what is.” Truth is the equation of thought and thing. It is the conformity of a person’s mind and reality.
But where is truth to be found?
Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft sums up the greatest Catholic thinker, Thomas Aquinas, on this question. According to Kreeft, Thomas says truth is found in three places.


Friendship from Above

There are three institutions in American life that most effectively bring people together to forge strong and lifelong friendships, bridging differences of race, ethnicity, education, and wealth. All three are despised by the secular liberals.
What are they not? They are not institutions that isolate people by affirming identities according to vague or arbitrary categories. Colleges across the country have “centers” so defined, and we may end up with something similar at Providence College, if several pawn-pushing professors have their way. This is a mistake, as well intended as it might be, if the aim is friendship rather than political power.


Are We, As Church, A Receptive Bride?

“I have a desire for something more in my life” I often hear. It is an echo of the deepest ache within, that insatiable hunger for Love Divine. But few realize where the banquet table lies that will satisfy. Few realize our calling as the Church to be a bride, the “Bride of Christ.” Very few know what this really means, and thus the ache, the hunger remains, because we haven’t found the key to let the torrent of God’s spousal love into our hearts.
I did not know what it meant as Church to be the “Bride of Christ,” and I acted like a bystander instead of a bride: I prayed in a detached way; I went up to receive Holy Communion with head knowledge about what was taking place, but not of heart. The hunger and longing remained. I sought fulfillment in finite things: popularity, human approval and praise, success in one thing or another, adventure, fun and so on. But the fulfillment was fleeting, very superficial and shallow. It didn’t even begin to touch upon the ache deep within.


What’s the Story with Relics? Part 1

Within a few days of the martyrdom of St. Polycarp in the mid-second century, the members of his community sent a report to other Churches with a full eyewitness account. In the course of it, they not only described what they saw, but also revealed quite a bit to future generations about the common assumptions they shared with other Christians of the time, and the common misunderstandings their non-Christian neighbors, both Jew and Pagan, had about them.

Oldest Living Man, Auschwitz Survivor Has Some Words of Wisdom for You

Hey, when the world’s oldest man, who is a survivor of Auschwitz, has something to say, it’s time to look up from your Kindle, put down the phone, shake off your earbuds and listen for a moment.
Born in Poland, near the town of Zarnow on 15 September, 1903 to parents Moszek-Dawid and Brucha Krystztal, Mr Kristal has lived through both World Wars and survived Nazi war camp Auschwitz in the 1940s before relocating to Israel.
Kristal claims the title at the age of 112 years and 178 days as of 11 March 2016, and was awarded his certificate at his home in Haifa, by Guinness World Records’ Head of Records Marco Frigatti.


Light of the Spirit and True Knowledge of God

Lent is a time of intensified prayer.  See what Saint John Chrysostom has to say about this discourse with God.
“Prayer and converse with God is a supreme good: it is a partnership and union with God. As the eyes of the body are enlightened when they see light, so our spirit, when it is intent on God, is illumined by his infinite light. I do not mean the prayer of outward observance but prayer from the heart, not confined to fixed times or periods but continuous throughout the day and night.


How the Commandant of Auschwitz Found God’s Mercy

Those who survived Auschwitz called the man in charge an “animal.” Rudolf Höss presided over the extermination of some 2.5 million prisoners in the three years he was commandant of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Another half a million died there from disease and starvation. A year after his tenure came to an end, he returned to oversee the execution of 400,000 Hungarian Jews.
And yet even an “animal” such as he was not beyond the reach of God’s mercy.


Mercy Is Supernatural, But It Is Not Glamorous

In a very short time two of the beautiful couples at our church who celebrated their marriage anniversaries this past year became a widow and the other a widower. Last night our children’s great-grandfather passed away and left his wife of many years a widow. It is easy to understand why Christ mentions widows so much in the Gospels.  In fact, Christ has always revealed a very tender side of his Sacred and Merciful Heart in his commitment to those who find themselves alone and vulnerable.  How important this message is for our families today in a world that often overlooks the true needs of those who are lonely, terminally-ill, or disabled!


This Just In: When You Suffer by Jeff Cavins

When You Suffer: Biblical Keys for Hope and Understanding by Jeff Cavins
When You Suffer is a refreshing look at the mystery of pain and suffering and how to find meaning and even joy in the midst of it. Jeff Cavins discusses why we suffer and how our suffering can draw us closer to God. He explains that suffering is the greatest opportunity to love as Christ loves and how, by “offering up” our suffering, we join in Christ’s mission to redeem the world.
Lent does seem like the perfect time to read this book, especially as we draw closer to Holy Week. Reading a book about suffering, though, isn’t normally my cup of tea. But all it took was the first chapter for me to change my mind.


Can Society Determine Right and Wrong?

A person with whom I was corresponding recently asserted that skeptics are free to hold that objective morality is derived from the society in which we live. In this view, he claimed, moral principles exist beyond the individual and thus are objective.
This correspondent is in good company with Richard Dawkins. To the question “How do we decide what is right and what is wrong?”, Professor Dawkins answers, “There is a consensus about what we do as a matter of fact consider right and wrong: a consensus that prevails surprisingly widely” (The God Delusion, 298).


What Every Catholic Should Know About Soon-to-be-Saint Élisabeth of the Trinity

Last Friday, March 4, Pope Francis issued a decree approving the healing of Miss Marie-Paul Stevens as a miracle.  Both local officials and Pope Francis recognized that a religion teacher afflicted with Sjögren’s Syndrome while on a pilgrimage to Blessed Élisabeth’s convent in Flavignerot, just outside of Dijon, was healed in 2002. Over the summer of 2011, the Archdiocese of Dijon opened the process for the canonization of Blessed Élisabeth of the Trinity, the Carmelite Mystic of Dijon, France (1880-1906). A formal announcement of her canonization date is expected in the next few weeks.

“Risen” and the Reality of the Resurrection

When I saw the coming attractions for the new film Risen—which deals with a Roman tribune searching for the body of Jesus after reports of the resurrection—I thought that it would leave the audience in suspense, intrigued but unsure whether these reports were justified or not. I was surprised and delighted to discover that the movie is, in fact, robustly Christian and substantially faithful to the Biblical account of what transpired after the death of Jesus.


3 Protestants Who Helped Me Become Catholic

There’s no single path into the Church, that’s clear. We all come with our individual appetites and baggage, hang-ups and history, and yet somehow the Holy Spirit manages to jumble all of it into our individualized itineraries leading home.
That includes elements you’d think would work counter to Catholic conversion – like the atheism of Richard Smythe in Graham Greene’s novel, The End of the Affair. Smythe is a foil for the spiritual longings of Sarah Miles, who is desperate not to believe in God. Amid wartime romantic triangulations, Sarah struggles against belief, and Smythe does his best to bolster her inclinations. In the end, however, the atheist’s arguments are simply inadequate, and Sarah abandons herself to the ravenous charms of Holy Mother Church.


Missing Mass for No Reason

Q: I was visiting relatives over Easter, and sadly they do not attend Mass. I went to Mass, and reminded them that missing Mass was a mortal sin. They said, “Oh, that was in the old days. Missing Mass is no longer a mortal sin.” What do you say? Please give me some ammunition.


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