Palm/Passion Sunday Homily (1-page summary) on Lk: 22:14-23, 23:56
Introduction: The Church celebrates today as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday Today’s liturgy combines contrasting moments of glory (“Hosanna”) and suffering (“Crucify him”) – the royal welcome given to Jesus by his followers and the drama of his unjust trial culminating in his crucifixion. Holy Week challenges us to remember and relive the events which brought about our redemption and salvation, to appreciate gratefully the price Jesus paid for our salvation, and to return God’s love for us (expressed through the suffering and death of Jesus), by loving others. The meditation on these Paschal mysteries should enable us to do our own dying to sin and rising with Jesus, which will result in our healing, reconciliation, and redemption. Proper participation in the Holy Week liturgy will also deepen our relationship with God, increase our Faith, and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus.
Scripture lessons: Today’s first reading, found in the prophecy of Isaiah, is called the third Servant Song. Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 22) expresses Jesus’ agony on the Cross and His unfailing trust in His Heavenly Father. The second reading, taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, is an ancient Christian hymn representing a very early Christian understanding of who Jesus is, and of how his mission saves us from sin and death. The first part of today’s Gospel (Lk 19:28-40) describes the royal reception which Jesus received from his admirers. They paraded with him for a distance of two miles, from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. In the second part of today’s Gospel (Lk 22:14—23:56), we listen to the Passion of Christ according to Luke. We are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the story like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience and condemned Jesus to death on the cross, Herod who ridiculed Jesus and the leaders of the people who preserved their positions by getting rid of Jesus. The reading reminds us that Jesus died for our sins.
Life messages: Let us try to answer five questions today: 1) Does Jesus weep over my sinful soul as he wept over Jerusalem at the beginning of his Palm Sunday procession? 2) Am I a barren fig tree? God expects me to produce fruits of holiness, purity, justice, humility, obedience, charity, and forgiveness. Do I? Or do I continue to produce bitter fruits of impurity, injustice, pride, hatred, jealousy and selfishness? 3) Will Jesus have to cleanse my heart with his whip? Jesus cannot tolerate the desecration of the temple of his Holy Spirit in me by my addiction to uncharitable, unjust and impure thoughts words and deeds; neither is Jesus pleased by my calculation of loss and gain in my relationship with God. 4) Do I welcome Jesus into my heart? Am I ready to surrender my life to him during this Holy Week and welcome him into all areas of my life as my Lord and Savior? The palms should remind us that Christ is our King and the true answer to our quest for happiness and meaning in life. 5) Am I like the humble donkey that carried Jesus? Let us carry and radiate Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness and sacrificial service to our families, and communities.
Full Text: Palm/Passion Sunday [April 14]
Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: “You are that man!” After David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged to have her husband Uriah killed, God sent Nathan the prophet to convict David of his sins. Nathan told the story of a rich man who, although he had many flocks and herds, decided to steal and kill the ewe lamb of his poor neighbor to eat with a guest (cf. 2Sam 12:1ff). This outraged David and got him to exclaim, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die.” Then Nathan shocked David by saying, “You are that man!” During our listening to the Passion of the Lord, we might be tempted to become outraged against Judas, Pilate, Peter, Herod, the soldiers and so many others. But God through the Church gives us this story and then tells us, as Nathan told David, “You are that man!” You are Judas! You are Pilate! You are Peter! There have been great debates through the centuries about who ultimately was responsible for the death of the Lord. Some said the Jews. Some said the Romans. Some said both. But the Second Vatican Council, clearly basing herself on the traditional understanding from St. Paul’s letters and the earliest teachings of the Church, said that — even though clearly the sinful deeds of the Jewish leaders and Roman authorities played a part — ALL OF US killed Jesus by our sins. Jesus died for our sins. We also encounter Mary Magdalen, the Blessed Mother, Simon of Cyrene, the Roman Centurion, St. John and the others, and the Church says to us, again, “You are that man!” We are Mary Magdalene, reconciled sinners who remain faithful to the Lord to the end. We are Simon of Cyrene, helping the Lord — albeit perhaps reluctant at first — to carry the Cross. We are St. John, receiving Mary as our inheritance. We are the Centurion proclaiming Jesus to be the Son of God. During these days we are called to contemplate their faces as well and see in them the reflection of our own. (Fr. Roger J. Landry) http://frtonyshomilies.com/ .
# 2: “Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.” Constantine the Great was the first Christian Roman emperor. His father Constantius I who succeeded Diocletian as emperor in 305 A.D. was a pagan with a soft heart for Christians. When he ascended the throne, he discovered that many Christians held important jobs in the government and in the court. So, he issued an executive order to all those Christians: “Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.” The great majority of Christians gave up their jobs rather than disowning Christ. Only a few cowards gave up their religion rather than lose their jobs. The emperor was pleased with the majority who showed the courage of their convictions and gave their jobs back to them saying: “If you will not be true to your God you will not be true to me either.” Today we join the Palm Sunday crowd in spirit to declare our loyalty to Christ and fidelity to his teachings by actively participating in the Palm Sunday liturgy. As we carry the palm leaves to our homes, we are declaring our choice to accept Jesus as the King and ruler of our lives and our families. Let us express our gratitude to Jesus for redeeming us by his suffering and death, through our active participation in the Holy Week liturgy and our reconciliation with God and His Church, repenting of our sins and receiving God’s pardon and forgiveness from Jesus through His Church. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) Zechariah foresaw it. Jesus fulfilled it. The Greek author Plutarch describes how Kings are supposed to enter a city. He tells about one Roman general, Aemilius Paulus, who won a decisive victory over the Macedonians. When Aemilius returned to Rome, his triumphant procession lasted three days. The first day was dedicated to displaying all the artwork that Aemilius and his army had plundered. The second day was devoted to all the weapons of the Macedonians they had captured. The third day began with the rest of the plunder borne by 250 oxen, whose horns were covered in gold. This included more than 17,000 pounds of gold coins. Then came the captured and humiliated King of Macedonia and his extended family. Finally, Aemilius himself entered Rome, riding in a magnificent chariot. Aemilius wore a purple robe, interwoven with gold. He carried his laurels in his right hand. He was accompanied by a large choir singing hymns, praising the military accomplishments of the great Aemilius. (http://www.sigurdgrindheim.com/sermons/king.html) That, my friends, is how a King enters a city. But the King of Kings? He entered riding on a lowly donkey. Zechariah envisioned the King of Kings, the Messiah, coming not on a great stallion, but riding on a humble donkey. Zechariah foresaw it. Jesus fulfilled it. (http://www.tosapres.com/sermons.php?sermon=96)(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Introduction: The Church celebrates today as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. It is on Palm Sunday that we enter Holy Week, and welcome Jesus into our lives, asking him to allow us a share in his suffering, death and Resurrection. This is also the time we remember and relive the events which brought about our redemption and salvation. That is why the Holy Week liturgy presents us with the actual events of the dying and rising of Jesus. The liturgy also enables us to experience vicariously, here and now, what Jesus went through then. In other words, we commemorate and relive during this week our own dying to sin and selfishness and rising in Jesus, healed, reconciled to God and each other, and redeemed by His death and rising for us. No wonder Greek Orthodox Christians greet each other with the words, “Kali Anastasi” (Good Resurrection), not on Easter Sunday but on Good Friday. They anticipate the Resurrection. Just as Jesus did, we, too, must lay down our lives freely by actively participating in the Holy Week liturgies. In doing so, we are allowing Jesus to forgive us our sins, to heal the wounds in us caused by our sins and the sins of others and to transform us more completely into the image and likeness of God. Thus, we shall be able to live more fully the Divine life we received at Baptism. Proper participation in the Holy Week liturgy will also deepen our relationship with God, increase our Faith and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus. But let us remember that Holy Week can become “holy” for us only if we actively and consciously take part in the liturgies of this week. This is also the week when we should lighten the burden of Christ’s passion as daily experienced by the hungry, the poor, the sick, the homeless, the lonely and the outcast through our corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Palm/Passion Sunday liturgy combines contrasting moments, one of glory, the other of suffering: the welcome of Jesus into Jerusalem and the drama of his unjust trial and suffering, culminating in his crucifixion and death.
First reading: Isaiah 50:4-7, explained: In the middle section, chapters 40-55, of the book of the prophet Isaiah, there are four short passages which scholars have called the Songs of the Suffering Servant. Today’s first reading is the third Servant Song. These four songs are about a mysterious figure whose suffering brings about a benefit for the people. In the original author’s mind, the servant was probably a figure for the people of Israel, or for a faithful remnant within the people. However, Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs, and the Church refers to them in this time of solemn meditation on the climax of Jesus’ life. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 22), the psalmist feels abandoned but puts his trust in Yahweh for deliverance and salvation. The context of this day’s worship also conveys Jesus’ confidence in God’s protection in the midst of his trial and crucifixion.
Second Reading: Philippians 2:6-11, explained: is an ancient Christian hymn representing a very early Christian understanding of who Jesus is, and of how his mission saves us from sin and death. It is a message that Paul received from those who had been converted to Christ. “Jesus was Divine from all eternity. But he didn’t cling to that. Rather he emptied himself and became human. He accepted further humbling by obeying the human condition even unto death by crucifixion. So, God highly exalted him, giving him the highest title in the universe.” Christians reading this passage today are joined with the first people who ever pondered the meaning of Jesus’ life and mission. We’re singing their song, reciting their creed, during this special time of the year when we remember the most important things Our Lord did.
The Gospel Readings: The first part of today’s Gospel describes the royal reception which Jesus received from his admirers. They paraded with him for a distance of two miles: from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. Two-and-a-half million people were normally present to celebrate the Jewish feast of the Passover. Jesus permitted such a royal procession for two reasons: 1) to reveal to the general public that he was the promised Messiah, and 2) to fulfill the prophecies of Zechariah (9:9): “Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion…. see now your King comes to you; he is victorious, triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey…”), and Zephaniah (3:16-19): “Fear nor, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty Savior … He will … renew you in His love … I will save the lame, and assemble the outcasts … I will bring about their restoration.” (The traditional “Palm Sunday Procession” at Jerusalem began in the fourth century AD when the Bishop of Jerusalem led the procession from the Mount of Olives to the Church of the Ascension). In the second part of today’s Gospel, we listen to the Passion of Christ according to Luke We are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the story like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience and condemned Jesus, Herod who ridiculed Jesus, and the leaders of the people who preserved their position by getting rid of Jesus.
Gospel exegesis: Notes on Palm Sunday events: 1) Jesus rides on a lowly donkey: Doesn’t it seem odd that Jesus would walk 90 miles from the Galilee to Bethany and then secure a donkey for the final two miles to Jerusalem? In those days, Kings used to travel in such processions on horseback during wartime but preferred to ride a donkey in times of peace. I Kings 1:38-41 describes how Prince Solomon used his father David’s royal donkey for the ceremonial procession on the day of his coronation. Jesus entered the Holy City as a King of Peace, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah. The Gospel specifically mentions that the colt Jesus selected for the procession was one that had not been ridden before, reminding us of a stipulation given in I Samuel 6:7 concerning the animal that was to carry the Ark of the Covenant.
2) The mode of reception given: Jesus was given a royal reception usually reserved for a king or military commander. I Maccabees 13:51ff describes such a reception given to the Jewish military leader Simon Maccabaeus in 171 BC. II Maccabees 10:6-8 refers to a similar reception given to another military general, Judas Maccabaeus, who led the struggle against the Greek Seleucid Emperor, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and liberated the Temple from pagan control in 163 BC.
3) The slogans used: The participants sang the “Hallel” psalm (Psalm 118), and shouted the words of Psalms 25 and 26. The Greek word “hosiana” originally meant “save us now” (II Samuel 14:4). The people sang the entire Psalm 118 on the Feast of the Tabernacles when they marched seven times around the Altar of the Burnt Offering. On Palm Sunday, however, the people used the prayer “Hosanna” as a slogan of greeting. It meant “God save the king of Israel.”
4) The symbolic meaning of the Palm Sunday procession: Nearly 25,000 lambs were sacrificed during the feast of the “Pass Over,” but the lamb which was sacrificed by the High Priest was taken to the Temple in a procession four days before the main feast day. On Palm Sunday, Jesus, the true Paschal Lamb, was also taken to the Temple in a large procession.
5) Reaction of Jesus: Before the beginning of the procession, Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Lk 19:41-42), and when the procession was over, he cleansed the Temple (Lk 19:45-46). On the following day, he cursed a barren fig tree. Jesus cursed a fig tree for lying with its leaves. It looked good from the outside, but there was nothing there. Surely, he must have intended a reference to the Temple. The religious folk of his day were impotent and infertile. They had taken a good thing, religion, and made it into a sham.
Life Messages: 1) Does Jesus weep over me? There is a Jewish saying, “Heaven rejoices over a repentant sinner and sheds tears over a non-repentant, hardhearted one.” Are we ready to imitate the prodigal son and return to God, our loving Father through the Sacrament of Reconciliation during this last week of Lent and participate fully in the joy of Christ’s Resurrection?
2) Am I a barren fig tree? God expects me to produce fruits of holiness, purity, justice, humility, obedience, charity, and forgiveness. Am I a barren fig tree? Or do I continue to produce bitter fruits of impurity, injustice, pride, hatred, jealousy and selfishness?
3) Do I expect Jesus to cleanse my heart with His whip? Jesus cannot tolerate the desecration of the temple of the Holy Spirit in me by my addiction to uncharitable, unjust and impure thoughts words and deeds; neither is He pleased by my calculation of loss and gain in my relationship with God.
4) Do I welcome Jesus into my heart? Am I ready to surrender my life to Him during this Holy Week and welcome Him into all areas of my life as my Lord and Savior, singing “Hosanna”? Today, we receive palm branches at the Divine Liturgy. Let us take them to our homes and put them some place where we can always see them. Let the palms remind us that Christ is the King of our families, that Christ is the King of our hearts and that Christ is the only true answer to our quest for happiness and meaning in our lives. And if we do proclaim Christ as our King, let us try to make time for Him in our daily life; let us be reminded that He is the One with Whom we will be spending eternity. Let us be reminded further that our careers, our education, our finances, our homes, all of the basic material needs in our lives are only temporary. Let us prioritize and place Christ the King as the primary concern in our lives. It is only when we have done this that we will find true peace and happiness in our confused and complex world.
5) Are we ready to become like the humble donkey that carried Jesus? As we “carry Jesus” to the world, we can expect to receive the same welcome that Jesus received on Palm Sunday, but we must also expect to meet the same opposition, crosses and trials later. Like the donkey, we are called upon to carry Christ to a world that does not know Him. Let us always remember that a Christian without Christ is a contradiction in terms. Such a one betrays the Christian message. Hence, let us become transparent Christians during this Holy Week, enabling others to see in us Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness and sacrificial service.
6) Can we face these questions on Palm Sunday? Are we willing to follow Jesus, not just to Church but in our daily life? Are we willing to entrust ourselves to Him even when the future is frightening or confusing, believing God has a plan? Are we willing to serve Him until that day when His plan for us on earth is fulfilled? These are the questions of Palm Sunday. Let us take a fresh look at this familiar event. We might be surprised at what we see. It could change us forever.
7) Let us rejoice and weep: Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday are two sides of the same coin because we have to rejoice and sing as we receive Jesus into our lives as our Lord and Savior and we have to weep and mourn as his death confronts us with our sin. Yes, we were there in the crowd on both days, shouting “Hosanna!” and later “Crucify Him!” Because of what Jesus has done for us and our Faith in him, one day we will be in that great crowd gathered around the throne of God, and there everyone will shout words of praise, heavenly hosannas, that will ring through all eternity, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Rev (5:13).
Joke of the week: 1) “Why do you have that palm branch, dad?” Little Johnny was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from Church with his mother. His father returned from Church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked why. His father explained, “You see, when Jesus came into town, everyone waved palm branches to honor him; so we got palm branches today.” “Aw, shucks,” grumbled Little Johnny. “The one Sunday I can’t go to Church, and Jesus shows up!”
2) O Susanna: A little girl came home from worship. It was Palm Sunday. Her father asked what she had learned that day. She told him she learned all about the crowd waving their palm branches and singing a song to Jesus. The father was pleased that she had learned so much. He asked, “What was the song they were singing to Jesus?” The little girl paused, then said, “I think it was O Susanna.”
3) The angry Jesus: Winston Churchill once listened to a hot-tempered raving, ranting tirade directed at him by an opponent whose mouth worked faster than his mind. At the end of it, Churchill said, in his own Churchillian way, “Our honorable colleague should, by now, have trained himself not to generate more indignation than he has the capacity to hold.” A lot of people are like that. (Donald B. Strobe, Dynamic Preaching).
WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
- Holy Week resources: http://www.textweek.com/holyweek.htm
- All about Holy Week: http://www.churchyear.net/holyweek.htm
- The days of the Holy Week: http://www.cresourcei.org/cyholyweek.html
4) Holy Week: http://www.kencollins.com/holy-05.htm
22 Additional anecdotes:
1) Am I a donkey with a Christian name or one carrying Christ? An interesting as well as challenging old fable tells of the colt that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday. The colt thought that the reception was organized to honor him. “I am a unique donkey,” this excited animal might have thought. When he asked his mother if he could walk down the same street alone the next day and be honored again, his mother said, “No, you are nothing without Him who was riding you.” Five days later, the colt saw a huge crowd of people in the street. It was Good Friday, and the soldiers were taking Jesus to Calvary. The colt could not resist the prospect of another royal reception. Ignoring the warning of his mother, he ran to the street, but he had to flee for his life as soldiers chased him and people stoned him. Thus, the colt finally learned the lesson that he was only a poor donkey without Jesus riding on him. As we enter Holy Week, today’s readings challenge us to examine our lives to see whether we carry Jesus within us and bear witness to him through our living, or are Christians in name only. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) “Welcome home Mr. President.” A number of years ago, Newsweek magazine carried the story of the memorial service held for Hubert Humphrey, former vice-president of the United States. Hundreds of people came from all over the world to say good-bye to their old friend and colleague. But one person who came was shunned and ignored by virtually everyone there. Nobody would look at him much less speak to him. That person was former president Richard Nixon. Not long before, he had gone through the shame and infamy of Watergate. He was back in Washington for the first time since his resignation from the presidency. Then a very special thing happened, perhaps the only thing that could have made a difference and broken the ice. President Jimmy Carter, who was in the White House at that time, came into the room. Before he was seated, he saw Nixon over against the wall, all by himself. He went over to [him] as though he were greeting a family member, stuck out his hand to the former president, and smiled broadly. To the surprise of everyone there, the two of them embraced each other, and Carter said, “Welcome home, Mr. President! Welcome home!” Commenting on that, Newsweek magazine asserted, “If there was a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion.” The turning point for us is Palm Sunday. It is our moment of triumph. It was a triumph because God, Jesus, decided to ignore our miserable state and act on our behalf.(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) Hosanna leading to the cross: In 1964, Gene Smith’s When the Cheering Stopped, was published. In it, Smith, a noted American biographer of world leaders, told the story of the last years of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following World War I. When that war was over, Wilson, the 28th president of the United States, was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought, and that the world had been made safe for democracy. On his first visit to Paris after the war, Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than France’s own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate, and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all, the President’s health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man. It’s a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. It happened that way to Jesus. When he emerged on the public scene, he was an overnight sensation. On Palm Sunday, leafy palm branches were spread before him and there were shouts of “Hosanna.” But before it was all over, a tidal wave of manipulated opposition welled up that brought Jesus to the cross.(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) Passion Sunday and the shadow of the cross: The Bishop of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris during the early part of the last century was a great evangelizer who tried to reach out to unbelievers, scoffers, and cynics. He liked to tell the story of a young man who would stand outside the Cathedral and shout derogatory slogans at the people entering to worship. He would call them fools and other insulting names. The people tried to ignore him, but it was difficult. One day the parish priest went outside to confront the young man, much to the distress of the parishioners. The young man ranted and raved against everything the priest told him. Finally, the priest addressed the young scoffer, saying, “Look, let’s get this over with once and for all. I’m going to dare you to do something and I bet you can’t do it.” And of course, the young man shot back, “I can do anything you propose, you white-robed wimp!” “Fine,” said the priest. “All I ask you to do is to come into the sanctuary with me. I want you to stare at the figure of Christ on His cross, and I want you to scream at the very top of your lungs, as loudly as you can. ‘Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.’” So, the young man went into the sanctuary, and looking at the figure, screamed as loudly as he could, “Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.” The priest said, “Very good. Now do it again.” And again, the young man screamed, with a little more hesitancy, “Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.” “You’re almost done now,” said the priest. “One more time.” The young man raised his fist, kept looking at the crucifix, but the words wouldn’t come. He just could not look at the face of Christ and say those words any more. The real punch line came when, after he told the story, the bishop said, “I was that young man. That young man, that defiant young man was I. I thought I didn’t need God but found out that I did.” (World Stories for Preachers and Teachers by William J. Bausch).(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
5) Silent protest: Henri Nouwen tells a disturbing story about a family he knew in Paraguay. The father, a doctor, was active in protests against the military. He spoke out repeatedly against its abuses of human rights. Local police took their revenge by arresting his teenage son and torturing him until he was dead. It was a horrible crime. Townsfolk wanted to turn the funeral into a huge protest march. But the doctor chose another means of protest. The father displayed his son’s body in the local church. However, he was not dressed in a fine suit. And the funeral director applied no make-up. The father displayed his son as he had found him in the jail. The son was naked, his body marked with scars from the electric shocks and cigarette burns and beatings. It did not lie in a coffin but on the blood‑soaked mattress from the jail. It was the strongest protest imaginable, for it put injustice on grotesque display. (Rev. Tim Zingale’s website, http://www.dodgenet.com/~tzingale/sermonb/goodfridayillustrations.html.) See Christ hanging on the cross, showing all marks of cruel torture. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
6) “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy:” A father, Tim Miller, writes about a time when he experienced what God surely experienced that day on Calvary. Miller’s nine‑year‑old daughter Jennifer was looking forward to their family’s vacation. But she became ill, and a long-anticipated day at Sea World was replaced by an all‑night series of CT scans, X‑rays, and blood work at the hospital. As morning approached, the doctors told this exhausted little girl that she would need to have one more test, a spinal tap. The procedure would be painful, they said. The doctor then asked Tim Miller if he planned to stay in the room. He nodded, knowing he couldn’t leave Jennifer alone during the ordeal. The doctors gently asked Jennifer to remove all her clothing. Then they curled her into a tiny ball. Tim says he buried his face in hers and hugged her. When the needle went in, Jennifer cried. As the searing pain increased, she sobbingly repeated, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” her voice becoming more earnest with each word. It was as if she were saying, “Oh Daddy, please, can’t you do something?” Tim’ tears mingled with hers. His heart was broken. He felt nauseated. Because he loved her, he was allowing her to go through the most agonizing experience of her life, and he could hardly stand it. In the middle of that spinal tap, his thoughts went to the cross of Christ. What unspeakable pain both the Son and the Father went through, says Tim Miller. [Edward K. Rowell, 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), p. 180.] And it’s true. We see Christ’s courage. And we see the Father’s amazing love poured out. And here is the most astounding thing of all: it was all for us. We didn’t deserve it, but Christ died for us. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
7) The king on an ass! Some of you heard my story about the husband and the wife who had quarreled. It had been a pitched battle of wills, each digging heels in to preserve the position each had vehemently taken. Emotions had run high. As they were driving to attend a family wedding in a distant city, both were nursing hurt feelings in defensive silence. The angry tension between them was so thick you could cut it with a knife. But, then the silence was broken. Pointing to a donkey standing in a pasture out beside the road, the husband sarcastically asked, “Relative of yours?” The wife quickly replied, “By marriage!” In modern communication, the ass is a symbol for awkwardness, dumbness, blundering ineptness, non-sophistication. Yet, an ass plays a key role in the drama of Palm Sunday at which we’re looking today. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
8) Palm/Passion Sunday: Philip Yancey, an editor at Christianity Today magazine, grew up in a fundamentalist church which didn’t observe the major events of Holy Week. He never attended a Good Friday service and shied away from crucifixes because they were “too Catholic.” He writes, “The church I grew up in skipped past the events of Holy Week in a rush to hear the cymbal sounds of Easter.” (Christianity Today, September 9, 1996). We can understand this desire to skip through Holy Week. Jesus on the cross is death; Jesus risen is life! A sanctuary stripped bare for Good Friday is depressing; a lily-bedecked sanctuary is glorious! Who doesn’t want to skip through Holy Week? Yet, the adult Philip Yancey has learned that the Bible “slows down rather than speeds up when it gets to Holy Week.” What people want to get through quickly, the Bible takes slowly. One early Christian commentator went so far as to say that the Gospels are actually the record of Jesus’ final week . . . with extended introductions. Here’s the challenge for Holy Week. We have but this Sunday to cover everything from Jesus entering Jerusalem to “Hosannas,” through the moment when Jesus was laid in a borrowed tomb. Even the name for this Sunday reveals our challenge. Today is “Palm/Passion Sunday.” It’s not “Palm or Passion Sunday,” not even “Palm and Passion Sunday.” It’s Palm/Passion Sunday, two different subjects jammed up against each other. v
9) ADD: Young Harold had a really bad case of Attention Deficit Disorder. On Palm Sunday, Harold’s Sunday School teacher sent empty plastic eggs home with each of her students. Mrs. Wilson told them to bring something back in the eggs next Sunday to represent Easter. She really didn’t expect Harold to bring anything, because he never listened in class. The next Sunday her children brought their eggs back. Susan had a pretty spring flower inside her egg. Joey had a little cross in his egg. Jackie had put a plastic butterfly in her egg. But, just as Mrs. Wilson suspected, there was nothing in Harold’s egg. She was surprised that he even remembered to bring it back! She had praised each of the other children for what they brought, but she didn’t say anything about Harold’s empty egg. Harold looked at her with anticipation and said, “Mrs. Wilson, you didn’t say anything about my egg!” Mrs. Wilson said, “But, Harold, you don’t have any reminder of Easter in your egg.” Harold replied, “Uh-huh! It’s empty just like Jesus’ tomb!” (Quoted by Fr. Antony Kayala).
10) In the footsteps of Jesus, the donkey rider: There is a biography of a man who was one of the most learned people of his generation. He had two PhDs – one in philosophy, another in theology. Further, he was a world-class musician, and concert halls around the world were sold out when he went on tour. Then, to the surprise of everyone, he decided he wanted to go to a medical college to earn yet another doctoral degree in medicine. As soon as he had his medical degree, he left the comfortable surroundings of Western Europe and went into the jungles of Africa. There he cleared away part of the jungle and began building a clinic and a hospital. Once these were built, he started providing medical care to the young and old of Africa. Many years later, Dr. Albert Schweitzer won the Nobel Peace Prize for his ministry of healing in the jungles of Africa. When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, he shared with that distinguished crowd in Stockholm the reason he had built a hospital in Africa. The reason was summed up, he stated in the first words he always said to his native patients as they awakened from an operation. He would say: “The reason that you have no more pain is because the Lord Jesus told the good doctor and his wife to come to the banks of Ogooue River and help you. If you owe thanks to anyone, you owe it to the Lord Jesus.” He accepted the challenge to be a humble servant of Jesus Christ. And this is our challenge – this is your challenge – this is my challenge — in this Holy Week! Look beyond your needs to the needs of others, and you will be on the road to being a humble servant of Jesus Christ. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
11) “Greater love has no one than this:” On January 13, 1982 an airliner crashed into the icy waters of the Potomac River near Washington, D.C. Seventy-nine people were aboard that ill-fated aircraft, and of that number, only five survived. All of those survivors had something in common: they owed their lives to another passenger, a 46-year-old bank examiner named Arland D. Williams Jr. Workers on the rescue helicopter sent to the crash reported that Williams was one of only a half a dozen survivors clinging to twisted wreckage bobbing in the icy Potomac when they arrived. Life vests were dropped, then a flotation ball. Williams repeatedly spurned the safety line and passed it on to the five others floating in the bitterly cold water. One by one they were taken away to safety. By the time the helicopter crew could return for Williams, however, both he and the plane’s tail section had disappeared beneath the icy surface. He had been in the water for twenty-nine minutes with five opportunities to be saved, but each time he deferred to another. His body was later recovered. According to the coroner, Williams was the only passenger to die by drowning; the rest died on impact. He did not so much lose his life as give it. When the helicopter pilot was interviewed later, he described Williams as a brave and good man. “Imagine,” said the rescue pilot, “he had just survived that horrible plane crash. The river was ice-cold and each minute brought him closer to death. He could have gone on the first trip but he put everyone else ahead of himself.” The man was truly a hero. Later, the bridge the plane hit on its way into the icy water was renamed. Today it is the “Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge.” (Rev. Ronald Botts, http://www.firstchurch.org/sermons/2003/2003070129.htm. ) “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend . . .” (Jn 15:13). That’s what sent Jesus to the cross. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
12) “Jesus . . . loves . . . me . . . and . . . I . . . love . . . Jesus.” Author, speaker, and teacher Tony Campolo tells how he was asked to be a counselor in a junior high camp. He says everybody ought to be a counselor at a junior high camp. A junior high kid’s concept of a good time, Tony says, is picking on people. “And in this particular case, at this particular camp, there was a little boy who was suffering from cerebral palsy. His name was Billy. And they picked on him.” As Billy walked across the camp with his uncoordinated body the other kids would line up and imitate his grotesque movements. On Thursday morning it was Billy’s cabin’s turn to give devotions. Tony wondered what would happen, because they had appointed Billy to be the speaker. Tony knew that they just wanted to get Billy up there to make fun of him. As Billy dragged his way to the front, you could hear the giggles rolling over the crowd. It took him almost five minutes to say seven words. These were the words: “Jesus . . . loves . . . me . . . and . . . I . . . love . . . Jesus.” When Billy finished, there was dead silence. A revival broke out in that camp after Billy’s short testimony. Tony says that as he travels all over the world, he finds missionaries and preachers who say, “Remember me? I was converted at that junior high camp.” The counselors had tried everything to get those kids interested in Jesus, says Tony. They even imported baseball players whose batting averages had gone up since they had started praying. But God didn’t use the superstars. He chose to use a kid with cerebral palsy. Why did I tell that story now? Because the crowds, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, Herod, Pilate and everyone involved, even the disciples, believed that the Cross was defeat. Everyone, that is, except Jesus. Jesus knew that our God is a God of reversal who likes to take our beliefs and stand them on their heads. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
13) There was not one winner — there were nine winners. The one-time Methodist Bishop of Mississippi, Jack Meadors tells a wonderful story of an incident that occurred during the Special Olympics. Nine children lined up for the 100-yard dash. The gun sounded and the race was off. But only a few yards into the race, one of the children fell and began to cry. For some reason these challenged children did not understand the world’s concept of competition and getting ahead and taking advantage when a competitor was down. The other eight children stopped running and came back to their fallen comrade. A young girl with Down’s syndrome kissed him and brushed him off. The children lifted him up together; arm in arm, they ran over the finish line. The audience rose to their feet in applause: there was not one winner there were nine winners. For a fleeting moment these children showed us what the Kingdom of God is like. They challenged the world’s concept that first place is everything. In the race that we’re in, everyone matters, particularly those who have fallen and are on the outside. Why did the cheering stop? Because on Palm Sunday, Jesus opened the doors of the Church to everyone. It angered some people then, and let me tell you, it will anger some people today.
14) “What did the Christian’s God do then? On Marco Polo’s celebrated trip to the Orient, he was taken before the great and fearsome ruler, Genghis Khan. Now what was Marco Polo supposed to do before this mighty pagan conqueror? One false move could cost him his life. He decided to tell the story of Jesus as it is recorded in the Gospels. It is said that when Marco Polo related the events of Holy Week, and described Jesus’ betrayal, his trial, his scourging and crucifixion, Genghis Khan became more and more agitated, more engrossed in the story, and more tense. When Marco Polo pronounced the words, “Then Jesus bowed his head and yielded up his spirit,” Genghis Khan could no longer contain himself. He interrupted, bellowing, “What did the Christian’s God do then? Did he send thousands of angels from heaven to smite and destroy those who killed his Son?” What did the Christian’s God do then? He watched his beloved Son die, that’s what the Christian’s God did then. For that was the way God had chosen for Jesus to ascend the throne of his kingdom and to establish his Lordship for all time. That is not at all the way we would expect God to demonstrate his might and power, but that’s the way it was, and that is how we know what our God is like. In practical terms, that means that this suffering King, who rules in love, comes to lay his claim on our life. Our entire life is subject to his Lordship, not just a portion of it. To have Christ be our King means that we rely on him for everything, most of all for the forgiveness of our sins. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
15) The Man Born to Be King. Back in the early 1940’s, the British Broadcasting Company provided the people of England with a real spiritual experience. These were the dark days of the Second World War, and Dorothy Sayers’ play, The Man Born to Be King, was broadcast. The play portrays the life of Jesus in a reverent and realistic way. I have read that skillful use of sound effects, such as the scraping of a boat on the rocks around the Sea of Galilee and the dripping of water in the basin as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, made the story come astonishingly alive. The season of Lent affords us an excellent opportunity to listen to some sounds – some sounds of the Passion. Over one-third of the material in the four Gospels is devoted to that last week in the earthly life of Jesus. We call this part of each Gospel the Passion Narrative, for it tells of His entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, His arrest, the trials, His crucifixion. Perhaps all this can come alive for us in a different way if we turn off the picture and listen. We can use the ear instead of the eye, for if we hear, we are more apt to be drawn in. If we only watch, we may be mere spectators. So let’s try to create a sound picture. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
16) The scar on Harry Potter’s forehead: There is a villain in the Harry Potter series, an evil wizard named Lord Voldemort. At the end of the first book, Harry Potter learned that Voldemort had murdered both his parents when Harry was only a baby. He first murdered Harry’s father and then tried to murder Harry, to be sure that Harry, as his father’s heir, would not be a threat to Voldemort as Harry grew to maturity. But, of course, he did not succeed in murdering Harry. When he tried to do so, Harry’s mother threw herself in the way, taking the blow and dying in Harry’s place. When Voldemort then tried to kill Harry, he could not. In fact, the curse that he hurled at Harry rebounded onto Voldemort and drained him of his powers. All his efforts had only left a lightning-bolt scar across Harry’s forehead. Because of his mother’s sacrificial love, Harry lived and Voldemort’s powers were greatly diminished. Throughout the Harry Potter novels, others immediately recognize young Harry because of his scar. Throughout the series Voldemort makes repeated attempts to capture and kill Harry Potter, but each time he fails. At last Harry asks the wise Headmaster, Dumbledore, why Voldemort could not kill him. This is what Dumbledore tells him: “Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that a love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark . . . To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin . . . [Voldemort] could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.” [J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Scholastic: 1998), p. 216.] The reason Harry could not be killed was his mother’s sacrificial love for him. The reason you and I can be victorious over sin and death is Christ’s sacrificial love for us. That’s the reason Palm Sunday is so important to us. That is the reason Holy Week is so important to us. It is not a scar on our forehead but the cross on our altar that tells us that Someone died on our behalf. We are the recipients of an everlasting love. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
17) Jesus shed tears: Remember what Adlai Stevenson said when he lost his bid for the presidency? (Probably because he was divorced. How far we have come!!) The reporters had asked him how it felt. How was it supposed to feel? (I must confess I am more than a little tired of reporters sticking microphones into the faces of grieving people and asking them how they feel. I’m afraid that if any should ever do that to me, I might explode and say something quite unministerial). But Stevenson seems to have taken it in good humor. When asked how he felt, he replied, “I’m too big to cry, and it hurts far too much to laugh.” Where did we ever get the notion that that bigger you are, the fewer tears you shed? I think that is the opposite of Biblical truth. Jesus wept. It is possible that in some way far beyond our understanding, even God can shed a few tears. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
18) King for a day: Once upon a time, before television, there was radio. One of the most popular daytime radio programs in those days was called Queen for a Day. Each day, four or five women from the studio audience would tell the host what they would like to do if they could be “Queen for a Day.” Then, on the basis of applause, one woman was chosen, and insofar as they were able, the sponsors fulfilled her wildest desires. She was given a number of valuable prizes and for one day she reigned as “Queen.” That sounds like what happened to Jesus, doesn’t it? Jesus was crowned “King for a Day” on that first Palm Sunday. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
19) Hostages saved: In March 1994, a young man, armed with a handgun and a bomb, walked into the Salt Lake City Public Library and took everyone hostage. The young man, Clifford Lynn Draper, seemed at the time to be mentally unbalanced. He gathered up the people on the second floor of the library and forced them all into a conference room. Among his hostages was a man who had chosen to be there. This man was Lloyd Prescott, a local policeman. Prescott had been on the first floor of the library when he heard the news that an armed man had taken the second-floor hostage. He sneaked upstairs and mingled in with the hostages who were being herded into the conference room. Prescott knew that the best way to solve this situation was to hide his own identity and become a hostage himself. Their young captor was angry, violent, and unstable, but he eventually made the mistake that Lloyd Prescott was waiting for. Prescott caught Draper by surprise and shot him, saving the lives of all the other hostages. In the same way, our Faith teaches us, humanity was held hostage by sin and death. Christ was sent to infiltrate our world in order to set us free. He was sent to break the yoke of sin that kept us from being what God created us to be. We remember and celebrate these events in Holy Week. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
20) Jesus cursing the fig tree: A Catholic priest in Dayton, Ohio, recently defied his archbishop by denying communion to worshipers who did not observe a dress code. For several years he had denied the sacraments to anyone who came to church in “shorts, bare midriffs, tank tops, jeans, and sweatshirts.” Finally, the archbishop asked the 73-year old priest for defying his authority to retire. The priest said: “I do not hate the archbishop. I have only pity for him, since he will have to face an angry Christ in judgment.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
21) Jesus weeps: In C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the young boy Digory is heartbroken by the realization that his mother is dying, and that he can do nothing to save her. He raises his despairing face to the story’s Christ-figure, the great Lion, Aslan, and is startled to see the great shining tears in Aslan’s eyes. “They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own, that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must be sorrier about his mother than he was himself.” “My son, my son,” says Aslan. “I know grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. So let us be good to one another and take care of one another.” Wherever people grieve, Jesus weeps. Wherever children suffer, Jesus weeps. Wherever lives are torn apart, and hearts are empty, and hope dies, Jesus weeps. v(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
22) Donkey- poem by BY G. K. CHESTERTON (Quoted by Sherin C.)
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely, I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet. (L/19) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 20) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website: http://frtonyshomilies.com/for missed homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily.
Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.