Homily for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Year A 2014
I usually let the Gospel of the Passions speak for themselves because they are moving in their completeness and detail, and perhaps too large to comment on in a brief homily. So it is today with the Gospel of Matthew,
My words today will focus briefly on the readings that frame the Gospel. We began with the Gospel reading of Jesus entry into Jerusalem – very much a contrast to the Passion that we hear twenty minutes later! Jesus is seen by his followers as a savior, a messiah who will deliver them from the Roman captors. The procession into the city is linked to the Hebrew tradition by Matthew by the quotation from the Hebrew Testament: “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey.” The humble man who will save his people is hailed as he enters the city for the Passover festival. Little do they know that the key word here is humility, and the messiah will not bring them the liberation they are expecting, but something far greater.
The prophet Isaiah describes the person who will sent by God to save his people – not a conqueror, but a servant, a teacher who speaks healing words, sent to give strength to those who are tired. This servant will suffer, will be struck by his masters. They will insult and spit on this servant and treat him badly. But this servant will place all his trust in God, and so what seems like disgrace will become something else. This servant with total trust will set his face to the task at hand as solid as flint, and what would seem an embarrassment will be his glory.
The evangelists certainly saw this words as applying to Jesus, the teacher-healer who was mocked and spat upon, insulted and nailed to an instrument of torture. What should have been his shame, dying a criminal on a hill, however, will become Jesus’ glory, and will indeed save us, not from the Romans, but from the reign of Satan and death.
The remarkably poignant psalm today can be put directly into the mouth of Jesus on the cross. He remarks on how badly he is mocked, how battered is his body. His clothing has been taken from him and raffled off. He is at the lowest, questioning even whether God has forsaken him. But then the psalm changes, and the the psalmist – and Jesus- placing their total trust in God, know that all will be well, that they will be glorified, that God’s will is being done. We should stand in awe of the God who can do anything and has loved us unconditionally.
St. Paul then is able to summarize all this and put it into theological perspective. God, loving us so much, humbled himself, lowered himself to take on human flesh and become one of us. He obeyed his Father completely and but by that obedience, even to the point of death on a cross, he saved us and was exalted beyond all humans, so that we should honor him forever and confess our gratitude to him by our faith, hope and love.
Think of this, then, as a frame which surrounds the actions we heard about today. Try to find ways to once again realize the enormity of what this means, and in thanksgiving, try to live our lives in a way that will be worthy of the “way” that Jesus taught us to go to get to a little heaven on this earth and to reach the perfection of heaven. Please consider taking the whole Holy Week journey with us, celebrating Passover on Thursday, the crucifixion on Friday, the Vigil on Saturday and Easter Sunday’s glory.
This is today’s Good News which seemed like bad news at the time, and focused on the bleakest of stories, but our journey not yet ended with Easter yet to turn everything around.
Bishop Ron Stephens, Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 - Teaching the Church Year”]