HOMILY FOR PALM/PASSION SUNDAY YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: HIS DEATH IS OUR LIFE
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Mk 11:1-10 and Mk 15:1-39
Today we begin the celebration of Holy Week. For many of us, this is known as Palm Sunday. But if we came here to Church only because of the palms, we are terribly mistaken. This celebration is not about the palms. This is all about the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This is Passion Sunday. That is why the Gospel reading we heard is very long. It is the story of the Passion of our Lord.
In the Gospels, there were many attempts by the scribes and Pharisees to apprehend and even to kill Jesus. But he would always be able to elude them. The reason is simply because his “hour has not yet come”. Later on, he would just keep away from the crowd so that he would not expose himself to the authorities. But on this Sunday, we see Jesus not anymore hiding or avoiding the people. He audaciously exposed himself to the crowd and openly entered the city of Jerusalem. He knew that it is in Jerusalem that he will die. But he entered the city amid all the cheers of the people who waved their palm branches and shouted: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!10Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest (Mk 11:9-11). It was an entry of a king to his own city. His hour has already come. It is the hour when he had to offer himself as sacrifice on the cross. This is the will of the heavenly Father in order to ransom the people from sin and death.
As we begin today the Holy Week, let us just reflect on one very important truth: Jesus died for us. He died for each and every one of us. Do we realize the great meaning of this truth? “He died for us.” Many of us have heard this phrase so many times that we do not anymore realize the great value of the sacrifice of Jesus for us. Perhaps this true story will help us appreciate the meaning of this truth. During the Second World War, a Franciscan priest in Poland was actively helping Jews who were persecuted by the Nazis. In February 1941, he was arrested by the German Gestapo, and later transferred to Auschwitz concentration camp as prisoner no. 16670. In July 1941, a man from his barracks vanished, and the Germans believed he escaped. As policy of the camp, and as deterrent for future escape attempts, the camp commander ordered ten men to be picked out at random from the same barracks to be starved to death in Block 13.
One of the selected men, a Polish army sergeant, Franciszek Gajowniczec, cried out, lamenting his family: “My poor wife! My poor children! What will they do?” When this priest heard this, he volunteered to take his place. The commander was surprised, but the priest insisted: “I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children.” The priest survived three weeks of starvation. He was later killed by an injection of carbolic acid.
He is now Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, the Martyr of Charity. He was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1971, and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982, who declared him the “Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century.” On both occasions, Franciszec Gajowniczec was present who declared: “I wish to express my thanks for the gift of life. So long as I have breath in my lungs, I would consider it my duty to tell people about the heroic act of love by Maximilian Kolbe.” He is ever conscious of the fact that he owed his life to St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe.
What St. Maximilian did was in imitation of what Jesus did for all of us. “He died for us.” The story of the suffering and death of Jesus that we heard in the Passion is basically a story of love – God’s love for us. How should we respond to it? Like Franciszec Gajowniczec, we should always be grateful, “for God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son.”
Gratitude to God is not simply by saying “Thank You” to Him. Rather, genuine gratitude should lead us to radical conversion, totally rejecting sin, because we know that sin always offends God. And secondly, it should also move us to love and care for those whom God also loves: our needy brothers and sisters.
As we begin this Holy Week, may we make this truly holy as we express our gratitude to God by resolving to turn away from sin and to be pleasing in His sight by our acts of kindness and love towards one another.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422