HOMILY FOR THE PALM/PASSION SUNDAY, YEAR A, B, C (no. 3)
By: Fr. Johnbosco Obika
Reading 1 IS 50:4-7
Reading 2 PHIL 2:6-11
Gospel MT 26:14-27:66
HOMILY: NEVER LOOK BACK
HOMILY: Today, we celebrate the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem, the climactic point of his earthly ministry. Today’s liturgy carries some mix feelings. At the beginning, the whole scenario was agog with the picture of palms and beautiful decorations, coupled with the chants of “Hosanna to the son of David“. As we moved in procession into the church, the palm fronds waved gloriously in the air, presenting the majestic euphoria with which Jesus entered Jerusalem. However, as soon as we entered the church, with proclamation of the passion of our Lord, the air turns gloomy and apprehensive as we hear the interwoven events that led to the crucifixion of Jesus.
Why the entry into Jerusalem? In the whole of the scripture, Jerusalem is pictured as a paradoxical center stage of Jewish life. This is because Jerusalem is regarded as the city of God (literally, city of righteousness). Jewish worship and religious rituals revolve around Jerusalem. This not withstanding, it was not a place of favour for prophets of Israel because majority of them met their martyrdom in therein. Jesus’ case was not different. He knew that Jerusalem was a point of no return for prophets yet he was determined to go there in order to fulfill his mission as the scripture has foretold and as he has predicted: “Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:33). Jesus’ determination to enter Jerusalem and face death without resistance was foretold in the first reading in the prophecy of Isaiah which reads, “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting” (Is 50:6). The passage also described the Messiah as one who did not turn back or relented. It reads: “Therefore I have set my face like flint” (Is 50:7). St. Luke in the passion narrative refers Jesus as setting his face towards Jerusalem to complete his primary assignment—the salvation of man—in spite of distractions from the crowd, the authorities (Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod), and his own close friends—the apostles.
We all have our goals set by God for us to accomplish on earth which are strongly connected with our final goal, the heavenly Jerusalem. However, there are so many distractions, trials and tribulations, painful roads, true enemies and false friends that we have to battle with before we could reach our goals. 1. We are challenged by our different personal problems that might be hidden to the public. Think about those who live with a wife or husband; or bad children of good parents. 2. The society that offers no hope for the future generation due to ineptitude of leaders (like Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod) and their silence when the world look up to them in times of crises and confusion. Usually, the innocent honest ones like Jesus fall prey to their political gymnastics and leadership debacles. 3. On the other side, we see media that is supposed to be vanguards of truth but now spreading false rumors and inciting violence. 4. The economy that is wobbling; poverty that is looming and diseases that threaten the world. 5. The legal systems that promote “the culture of death”. 6. Sinful lifestyle that reduces the probability of reaching our spiritual destination. All this put together are great obstacles to the realization of our immediate/ earthly and remote/final goal.
Without being strong and firm like Jesus Christ we may fall on the roadside. But there is no one who claims to have successfully arrived who has not fallen severally. Jesus fell three times on the rocky road to Calvary but never remained on the ground. To fall is heroic, but to remain on the ground is cowardice. So, do not be afraid of falling, and do not be afraid of rising for our Lord’s hands are ready to lift us up again if we are ready to continue the journey.
Two things helped Jesus to remain stronger. One is Humility and other is Self-emptying (tapeinophrosune and kenosis in Greek). To the Jews and Romans they are bad omen and signs of weakness. But Jesus found strength in them. St. Paul in the second reading urges us, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross” (Philp 2:6-8). Therefore, to succeed we must be humble and do nothing out of selfish interest.
Christ did not die to remain in the grave forever. He died to rise again in glory. He who has learnt to win victory through suffering will not abandon us in our times of suffering, as the prophet declares in the first reading, “The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced…and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (Is 50:7). May God help us to overcome the distractions on our way so that we one day we shall meet him in the heavenly Jerusalem. Amen. HAPPY PALM SUNDAY FRIENDS!