HOMILY FOR THE PALM/PASSION SUNDAY, YEAR A,B,C
By: Fr. Munachi Ezeogu, CSSp
Commemoration of the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem
HOMILY Theme: What Is the Name of Your Donkey?
Year A: Matt 21:1-11, Year B: Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16, Year C: Luke 19:28-40
HOMILY: What different story would we be telling today if the unnamed owners of the donkey had refused to give it up? Maybe we would have no story of the triumphal entry, at least not in the way Jesus wanted it. No matter how unknown a person is, he or she can still play a crucial role in the unfolding of God’s plan. The Lord needs each one of us as he needed the unnamed owners of the donkey in the reading. We are not told who these owners of the donkey are but the fact that they understood that “the Lord” refers to Jesus and voluntarily gave up the donkey shows that they could be his secret disciples or admirers. Otherwise one would have expected them to answer, “But who is this Lord who needs my donkey?”
A donkey was a very big thing in those day. The donkey was the equivalent of a car, a truck and a tractor all in one. It was a car because people used it to move around and do their shopping, a truck because it was used to carry load, and a tractor because it was used in cultivating the land. Add to this the fact that the donkey had never been ridden, that means it was brand new and had a very high market value. You can see that giving up the donkey just because the Lord needed it was a very big sacrifice. It was a generous and heroic act of faith.
Now, compare the faith response of the owners of the donkey to that of many of the faithful in our churches today.
A visiting preacher was really getting the congregation moving. Near the end of his sermon he said, “This church has really got to walk,” to which someone in the back yelled, “Let her walk preacher.” The preacher then said, “If this church is going to go it’s got to get up and run,” to which someone again yelled with gusto, “Let her run preacher.” Feeling the surge of the church, the preacher then said with even louder gusto, “If this church is going to go it’s got to really fly,” and once again with ever greater gusto, someone yelled, “Let her fly preacher, let her fly.” The preacher then seized the moment and stated with even greater gusto, “If this church is really going to fly it’s going to need money.” There was silence. Then someone in the back seat cried, “Let her walk preacher, let her walk.”
Max Lucado reminds us that each of us has got a donkey that the Lord needs. Here is his reflection on using our donkey for the service of the Lord:
Sometimes I get the impression that God wants me to give him something and sometimes I don’t give it because I don’t know for sure, and then I feel bad because I’ve missed my chance. Other times I know he wants something but I don’t give it because I’m too selfish. And other times, too few times, I hear him and I obey him and feel honored that a gift of mine would be used to carry Jesus to another place. And still other times I wonder if my little deeds today will make a difference in the long haul.
Maybe you have those questions, too. All of us have a donkey. You and I each have something in our lives, which, if given back to God, could, like the donkey, move Jesus and his story further down the road. Maybe you can sing or hug or program a computer or speak Swahili or write a check.
Whichever, that’s your donkey.
Whichever, your donkey belongs to him. It really does belong to him. Your gifts are his and the donkey was his. The original wording of the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples is proof: “If anyone asks you why you are taking the donkeys, you are to say, ‘Its Lord is in need.'” [Max Lucado, And the Angels were Silent, p. 54]
So, what is the name of your donkey? The Lord has need of it.
Homily for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion: Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion
Theme: He Died for Us
Isaiah 50:4-7, Philippians 2:6-11, A: Matt 26:14 – 27:66 // B: Mark 14:1 – 15:47 // C: Luke 22:14 – 23:56
In the old liturgy, before Vatican II, the reading of the Passion was greeted with total silence. There was no homily. Even the concluding acclamation: “This is the gospel of the Lord” was omitted. On a day like this, I sometimes feel that the most eloquent response to the word of God we have proclaimed is silence. Even the best of homilies could be a distraction from the deep meditation in which many of us find ourselves at the end of the story of the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. But then also, a homily might be useful to direct and focus our meditation in the right direction. Otherwise we might be like little Johnny who was failing all his exams in the public school until his parents decided to send him to a Catholic school. At the end of the year Johnny came out on top of the class. When his parents asked him what made him change so dramatically Johnny replied, “You see, the moment I walked into that new school and saw that guy hanging on the cross, I knew that the people here were dead serious; so I decided not to take any chances.”
The crucifix might have helped Johnny to improve his scores but it is easy to see that Johnny has misread the crucifix. The man on the cross is not there to scare little boys but to show them how much he loves them. He is not there to show them what would happen to them if they misbehaved; he is there to show them that he has already paid the penalty for their sins. He is not dying on the cross for what he has done but for what you and I have done; because he loves us. He died for us.
“He died for us:” Many of us have heard this phrase so many times that it now carries with it neither the shock of someone dying on account of what we have done nor the good news of our being delivered from death. For us to hear this message again today as for the first time, the story of a man who literally died for the misdeeds of his brother might help.
Two brothers lived together in the same apartment. The elder brother was an honest, hard-working and God-fearing man and the younger a dishonest, gun-totting, substance-abusing rogue. Many a night the younger man would come back into the apartment late, drunk and with a lot of cash and the elder brother would spend hours plead ing with him to mend his ways and live a decent life. But the young man would have none of it. One night the junior brother runs into the house with a smoking gun and blood-stained clothes. “I killed a man,” he announced. In a few minutes the house was surrounded by police and the two brothers knew there was no escape. “I did not mean to kill him,” stammered the young brother, “I don’t want to die.” By now the police were knocking at the door. The senior brother had an idea. He exchanged his clothes with the blood-stained clothes of his killer brother. The police arrested him, tried him and condemned him to death for murder. He was killed and his junior brother lived. He died for his brother.
Can we see that this story of crime and death is basically a story of love? Similarly the story of the suffering and death of Jesus which we heard in the Passion is basically a story of love – God’s love for us. How should we respond to it? Well, how would you expect the junior brother to respond to the death of the senior brother? We would expect him to respond with GRATITUDE. Gratitude to his generous brother should make him turn a new leaf and never go back to a life of crime. He would be a most ungrateful idiot if he should continue living the sort of life that made his brother die. Gratitude should make him keep the memory of his brother alive. No day should pass that he should not remember his brother who died for him. Finally, if the dead brother has got a wife and children we should expect the saved brother, out of gratitude, to love and care for them. What God expects from us today is gratitude – gratitude strong enough to make us hate sin of every shade and colour; strong enough to make us translate our love of God into love of all of God’s people.