Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

WeeklyMessage

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

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