Homily (Reflection) for the Palm Sunday (A) (9th April, 2017) on the Gospel
Ps 21:8-9.17-20.23-24 (R. v.2)
Today is known by different names because of different reasons. It is called the 6th or the Last Sunday of Lent because it comes after the 5th Sunday of Lent and also the Last Sunday before Easter. It is also called Palm Sunday because today Christians go to church with either palms or branches from other trees according to different regions of the world to commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as a King amidst the crowd who spread their clothes and tree branches on the road shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” cf. Matt 21:8-9. It is also called the Passion Sunday because the story of Christ’s suffering and death is read today.
This Sunday opens the Holy Week; the week we celebrate the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ in the last days of his earthly life, from his messianic entry into Jerusalem, until his blessed Passion and glorious Resurrection. Holy Week is dedicated to the celebration of penance. Lent continues until Maundy Thursday.
The Passion we read today reminds me of a woman from a wealthy family. She fell in love with one man who did not have any serious means of livelihood. They later got married. As a result, although she had been duped in the past severally, she introduced her husband to her business with the intention that she had nothing to fear because the man would see it as his business and would also do anything possible to see it stand.
All started well. The man was very happy that he could eat well anytime and anywhere he wants. One day, the woman came back from a business trip and the man was nowhere to be found despite the fact that he knew that she was returning on that day. At first, she was not much disturbed by his not being around to welcome her but later became worried when she discovered that his personal belongings were nowhere to be found. Her neighbours later told her that the man left more than a week ago after siphoning her bank account to an unknown destination.
Topic: Lay Not Your Palms.
All that happened to Jesus were all prophesied by the prophets before his coming, cf. Matt 26:24, Mk 9:12; 14:21, Lk 18:31; 22:22. Those who interacted with Jesus while here on earth as a man can be divided into various groups which include – the crowd, his disciples, and the apostles (the most intimate group) and Judas was one of them. While at the Passover meal with the twelve (the apostles) he said to them: “Truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me” (Matt 26:21). This statement threw them into distress with the exception of the architect of his betrayal, cf. Matt 26:22, 25. Today’s Passion narrative reveals among other things that Jesus’ pain was not just from the fact that he was dying but that he was dying through the instrumentality of an intimate friend, cf. Ps 55:13.
One day while at Enugu – Nigeria repairing my car, some young men engaged themselves in a discussion about the passion of Jesus. Although I was not part of the discussion but I was too close to pretend that I did not hear everything they said. They wondered why Judas allowed himself to be used. Each and every one of them was of the opinion that he would not allow himself to be used. That discussion caught my attention. And I asked among other questions, ‘Is Jesus still in agony because of the betrayal of Judas?’ Reflect on this as we move on.
Just as we have noted, all that happened to Jesus was foretold before his coming. According to Saint Peter in his first Letter, the essence of Christ’s death is that he might bring us to God, cf. 1Pt 3:18. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews put it thus: “But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Heb 2:9). Jesus came and abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, cf. 2Tim 1:10.
Just as Jesus chose Judas as his close friend, he has also made us his friends by making known to us all that he heard from the Father, cf. Jn 15:15. He demonstrated this by dying for us. In the gospel we read, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). Are we now friend’s of God after Christ’s suffering and death? In the gospel according to John, Jesus tells us, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (Jn 15:14). And it is only by being faithful in trials unto death that one will earn the crown of life Jesus has prepared for us, cf. Rev 2:10.
Imagine the pains and psychological trauma the lady we saw in our introductory story went through not just because her money was siphoned but through whom. Being Jesus’ friends consoles him for Judas’ betrayal. Betraying Him further is more painful than Judas’ betrayal because it makes nonsense of everything he went through, cf. Ps 55:13. Sin brought death which Jesus came and saved us from, cf. Jas 1:15. The palms we carry ought to symbolise the laying down of our desires for Christ’s to triumph. Hence Saint Paul wrote, “...those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24, cf. Rom 13:14). Do not see these palms just like the crowd who spread their clothes and tree branches on the road shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” because they were the people who also shouted even louder, “Crucify him, Crucify him” Mk 15:13, 14. Paul rightly wrote “many … live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil 3:18). What have you to lay – yourself or your palms?
Bible Readings: Is 41: 1-20; 49: 8-18; Lk 12:13-21; 1Cor 10:23-31; Col 3:1-17.
Thought for today: Does Christ’s Passion really save you from death? Remember, desire brings sin and sin brings death, cf. Jas 1:15.
Let us pray:
Jesus, my Redeemer, give me the grace to live my life always according to your will. May I never betray you for whatever reason – Amen.
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