Homily for Palm Sunday

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Homily for Palm Sunday
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

Although it's at the very heart of our faith,
the story of the suffering and death of Jesus
is recounted in its entirety only twice a year,
and then in the same week:
on Palm Sunday and on Good Friday.

We encounter Jesus in this story
as in no other passage from the gospels.
Is he ever closer to us in our humanity:
than in his being betrayed, rejected and abandoned?
than in his physical and emotional suffering;
than in the naked loneliness of his last hours? 
than in the prayer he speaks to his Father
from the depths of his soul…  
from the height of the Cross?
than in his death:
his final surrender to mortal human nature?

If we do not go to meet Jesus in his suffering,
how can we hope to recognize him
when he comes to meet us in ours?

Listen again to Jesus’ own words,
where he bares his heart to us and invites us to enter it. 

I say to you, one of you will betray me...

Take and eat: this is my body, given for you…
Take and drink: this is my blood, poured out for you…

You will deny me three times...

My soul is sorrowful even to death:
watch with me for an hour…

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak...

My God, my God: why have you forsaken me…
And recall the responses
of those who were with Jesus in those last hours,
those whose words and deeds might sometimes be our own. 

Betray you, Lord?  Certainly not me!

I do not know the man…  A cock crowed…
Peter went out and wept.

Crucify him! Crucify him!

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd…

They crowned him with thorns, mocked him,
stripped him, struck him, spat upon him…

Truly this man was the Son of God! 

 These ancient words
have been proclaimed for centuries
yet in every age, in every year,
they speak to the moment at hand.

So, we hear the story of the passion of Jesus
as our young people march
to ask for safe schools, safe streets, safe places
to meet and study, to play and pray.

We witness the politics and intrigue
behind Jesus' suffering and death
as we struggle to find a vocabulary
for truth and civil discourse in our own day.

We heard the fear and betrayal and violence
in the story of Christ's suffering and death
as we struggle, still, to find peace
in our world, in our nation
and in our own hearts.
We saw the injustice of the verdict against Jesus
as we seek justice for the poor, the marginalized,
indeed, justice for all.

And, the very words of Jesus reminded us
that we will always have the poor with us -
as indeed we do,
while so many of us still have
so much more than we need.

The story of Jesus’ suffering and death
is 2,000 years old and yet as contemporary
as this morning’s headlines.

Which of all the words and phrases,
scenes and images in the passion
draw you closer to the humanity of Jesus
and thus to the doorway to his divinity?

We have a week, a holy week ahead of us,
to ponder just these thoughts.

May the story of Jesus
refresh and restore our faith in his love for us
given and poured out so generously
in his suffering, death and rising.

May the words and sacrifice of Jesus, 
embedded in our hearts,
lead us to meet him in the peace and the joy of Easter.


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