HOMILY FOR PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: THE CROWD, NOT ALWAYS RIGHT. THE TRUTH MUST BE TOLD
BY: Fr Cyril Unachukwu CCE
For more than five weeks now we have journeyed spiritually in our Lenten Observances. With the liturgy of today, uniquely marked with the blessing of palm fronds and the recounting of the passion narrative, we begin the Holy Week celebrations. May our renewed experience in the celebration of these mysteries of our faith open for us the gate of God’s blessings and favours; Amen.
The Holy Week is the climax of the Church’s Liturgical Year for in it we celebrate anew the most profound parts of our faith, of the paschal mysteries, of the passion, death and resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ. Outside of these mysteries, our faith is in vein (I Cor 15:14, 17)! The heart of the Holy Week is the Paschal Triduum beginning from the Evening Mass of the Last Supper up to the solemn vespers of Easter Sunday. The liturgy of Holy Thursday is however in two parts in which are commemorated the institutions of two great sacraments of our faith; namely, the Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist. The Institution of the Priesthood by Christ is celebrated in the morning with the Mass presided by the Bishop with all of the priests of the diocese around him. In this same Mass are blessed three oils. However, whereas the oil of Catechumens and the oil of the sick are blessed, the oil of Chrism is consecrated and from it the Mass receives its popular name as ‘Chrism Mass.’ In the evening is celebrated the Mass of the Last Supper in which the institution of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is commemorated. On Good Friday the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ is celebrated; the death that changed the history of the world and the history of God’s relationship with us. In the death of Christ is ratified the new and eternal covenant which God entered with us in Christ. On Holy Saturday, we remain in the spirit of silence and meditation keeping watch at the tomb of the Lord to eventually explode with joy at the resurrection of Christ on Easter morning. In this lies the Easter joy, the joy that motivates the Christian life and that vivifies the whole of the celebrations of the Church. I invite you to walk with the Church in the holiest of weeks in which is celebrated the font of grace, the grace that fortifies our lives as Christians and the grace that helps us to overcome all forces of evil we may encounter on our journey to God.
In the readings of today’s liturgy, starting from the Gospel at the liturgy of the blessing of the palm fronds (Mk 11:1-10), to the First Reading of the Mass (Is 50:4-7) through the Psalm (Ps. 21) and the Second Reading (Phil 2:6-11) to the Passion narrative according to Mark (Mk 14:1-15:47), we encountered many persons in their different roles in the different scenarios. I wouldn’t know which of these persons attracted your attention. For the purpose of our reflection, I would want us to look at Pilate, especially in his inability to stand out and defend what was right even when he realized that the crowd was in error. Pilate knew the truth but he was afraid to stand by it because the crowd was on the opposite camp of error. This type of attitude decorates erroneous claims as true because a greater number said so. Truth is never fundamentally democratic! What is true remains true irrespective of the number of persons that stand and live by it. We must always understand that the crowd is not always in the right and giving in to their wrong inclinations in such cases means selling out our birthright for a plate of porridge. This has always been the background for the legalization of illegalities because the crowd wants something ontologically illegal to count as legal. What else could qualify the killing of Jesus as the Creed has it “He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.” Those who change the world are those who are able to stand for what is right irrespective of how many people are on the opposite side. Diplomacy has always a taint of selfishness and selfishness is often an enemy of the truth. Pilate’s failure started when he became convinced of the truth and wanted to practice his knowledge of diplomatic relations. We can change the world if we can reject this ‘pilatic’ and diplomatic attitude to what is true and embrace Jesus’ ever-readiness to stand for and defend what is true irrespective of the crowd in the opposition.
We pray for the grace and power to be defenders of the truth, for Christ is really the Truth in person and it is this Truth that sets us free. May our Holy Week celebrations lead us to enjoy this freedom; Amen. Happy Palm Sunday;
-Fr Cyril Unachukwu CCE