Palm Sunday 2021

Today, with the exception of Good Friday, we hear the longest Gospel of the year, but in her wisdom, the Church leaves me explicit instructions that I should only give a brief homily.[1] It is the only time the church tells me how long I am to preach and maybe your definition of brief is different than mine, this homily will certainly be brief. It then leaves me with a challenge. We have just heard one of the turning points in human history; the culmination of God’s mission here on earth. The Son of God who came into the world to suffer and die, and then we will hear on Easter Sunday, to rise for us. How are we supposed to summarize that briefly?

The answer is we are not. You see this Sunday begins a week-long journey for us. The Church doesn’t anticipate that we won’t see you again until Easter Sunday. No, the Church anticipates that we set the stage today, we welcome Jesus into the city of Jerusalem, and then we gather as a parish on Holy Thursday to celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, we come back again on Friday to celebrate Christ’s passion and death before gathering together again on Easter Sunday to celebrate His resurrection. You see the liturgies of Holy Week are some of the most ancient and the most beautiful and they are little different then the other liturgies throughout the year. They are intended to draw us in. They are intended to have us walk with Jesus through this life changing event.

So today, we start our journey welcoming Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. Here is this celebrity figure who has performed all kinds of miracles. He has raised Lazarus from the dead, He has fed 5,000 people with just a few loafs of bread and a few fish, and He is welcomed into the city for who He is, a king. A king not of this world, but of the kingdom you and I belong to, the kingdom of heaven. Have you ever stopped to ask how He could go from being so popular and five days later put death as a criminal? They didn’t have social media, radio, or television, where you could say something stupid and go from being popular to cancelled. What was it? How did He go from being a king to having people shout crucify Him 5 days later?

Well, I think, it’s a combination of a couple of things. Certainly, some people felt the threat from the Jewish leaders and so they did stand outside and shout crucify Him because they wanted to go along with whatever the popular movement was. But I think, if you look at it closely, the real, reason Jesus is put to death, is not because all of those followers from Palm Sunday showed up and turned on Him on Good Friday, it’s precisely the opposite problem. Those people who welcomed Jesus into the city as a king didn’t show up when He was put on trial. It is easy to join a crowd and say how great something is, but when the crowd no longer aligned with their view they didn’t show up to defend Jesus, rather they turned their back. My friends, I think we have to acknowledge that we can be like this too. It is easy to be Catholic here in the church. What happens when we leave the church? What happens when other people say things or groups don’t align with our belief. Sure, maybe we don’t agree with them, but do we show up? Do we at least profess what we know to be true or do we cower away?

My friends, I think all of us want to consider ourselves as one of those who were in the crowd who welcome Jesus into Jerusalem, but I think if we are honest we have to admit that at times we are also part of the crowd that shouts crucify Him. After all, Jesus is clear “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”[2] So anytime our actions fall short of what we should expect to receive from another, we have once again shouted out “crucify Him.”

There is no way around it, Jesus came into this world to suffer and die for us. Jesus suffered horribly because of our actions. It is not easy to hear, but it makes His sacrifice on the cross all the greater. My friends, “the cross of Christ is not a theory, but a dreadful ordeal and a sign of love,”[3] which must be accepted. So, as we prepare to enter into the holiest of weeks, we have two options. We have just welcomed Him as a king. Who will we be? Will be like those who don’t show up and turn our backs pretending that nothing is going on, or will we be like those women and St. John who were willing to face the difficult reality of Christ’ death, walking and standing with Him through the cross to the light of the resurrection? The choice is ours. The world will take this week to be just another week, but we know it is something far great. Today the Church provides us the opportunity to begin Holy Week, we have all done that, but will we truly allow this week to be holy?


[1] Instruction 8 from the Mass of the Passion of the Lord

[2] Mt 25:40

[3]  Robert Cardinal Sarah, God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith with Nicolas Dias San Francisco: Ignatius (2015) Pg. 95.

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