HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR PALM SUNDAY YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: THE TORTOISE AND THE SCORPION
BY: Fr. Christian Eze
First reading – Is. 50:4-7
Second reading – Phil. 26-11
Gospel – Mk. 14:1-15
Last year, during the Palm Sunday celebration, I did notice how some children were eager to have their palm leaves. They held those fresh leaves so precious in their hands. Some constructed beautiful crosses with theirs. Before the procession could be over, I saw most of those Palms littered and abandoned here and there by these same children. Some began to use the same leaves to construct birds and different animals and structures. Others were even using them to flog one another. The palm leaves that were much adored not quite long soon became an object of scorn. What is more, the surviving palms await nothing more than to be burnt and used as ashes on the next Ash Wednesday.
The sharp change of mood seen in the children’s palm leaves above runs through the events of today. A little while ago, we were gathered joyfully for the beautiful procession and the singing of Hosanna. But now, we are seated somewhat appearing moody having switched so sharply over to the Passion of the Lord. What we have experienced brings us in the light of what the crowd and some individuals we heard in the Passion narrative actually did. The same crowd cheering, hailing and adoring Christ the Lord, Blessed is who comes… they are the same that now shout in unison, Crucify Him Crucify Him. The same Peter who vowed to stand by the Master even to lay down his life for Him, the same denied him no sooner for up to three times.
I recall the story of the tortoise and the scorpion. Once, the tortoise and the scorpion were good friends. The two friends were on a journey and on their way they met a river which they needed to cross. The tortoise could swim but the scorpion could not. So the scorpion pleaded with his friend, the tortoise, to back him across so that they would continue their journey. The tortoise could not accept it owing to the fact that the scorpion could sting him on the back. The scorpion swore never to attempt such on his own friend who was helping him.
Strengthened by this, the tortoise backed him. But right there at the center of the river, the scorpion gave him a powerful sting that landed two of them into the water. As they struggled and came ashore, the tortoise furiously asked his friend why such a breach of contract. The scorpion, pleading for pardon, told the tortoise that he never meant to hurt him; it was only that it is in his nature as a scorpion to sting and he could not do otherwise. Humans are not naturally known to be stable. They are not to be trusted; their mood changes. They say “Yes” to you in the morning and say “No” in the evening. They are happy this moment and get sad the next moment. This is why we often see ourselves make promises to God, commitments, vows severally; and how often are we faithful to these?
We must realize how frail we are. We must not be Judas Iscariot who could not accept his weakness. Peter on the other hand realized his human weakness of changing and sought the mercy of God that never changes. Saints are not born, they are made. In our nature as human, to embrace constant changing, we must always long to direct this change from the negative to the positive, from bad to good, from devilish things to Godly things, from falsehood to truthfulness, from sinfulness to holiness and so on. Even if we try and fail ten times, let us not give up, rather, let us courageously look up to Christ as Peter did. The book of Lamentations tells us: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is [His] faithfulness” – Lam. 3:22-23. God is always there for everyone in every condition. While every other thing else changes, God never changes. “Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day Earth’s joy grow dim, its glories pass away; Change and decay in all around I see O thou who changest not abide with me.