YEAR C: HOMILY FOR PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST
HOMILY THEME: JESUS, SUFFERING SERVANT
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
HOMILY: Palm Sunday is here and the Lenten season is gradually coming to an end! During this last week of Lent special Bible passages are selected to help us reflect more deeply on Jesus.
This time, the Prophet Isaiah makes reference to an unknown suffering servant of Yahweh. He is the person who lays down his life. This suffering servant of Yahweh says, “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled at my beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God helps me…” (Isaiah 50:6-7). The Psalm echoes the voice of the suffering servant of Yahweh: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). The Psalmist adds, “For dogs have surrounded me, a band of the wicked besets me. They tear holes in my hands and feet; I can count every one of my bones” (Psalm 22:17). The Old Testament Passages on the servant of Yahweh obviously point to Jesus. St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians spoke of Jesus as this suffering servant of Yahweh, as one who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. He humbled himself and became obedient unto death (Philippians 2:7-8).
Jesus, suffering servant of Yahweh suffered brutality in many ways. The Gospel of Luke clearly spells out some of the most painful moments of the passion of Jesus. On Passion Sunday, the Gospel is long and dramatic. After the long Gospel passage is read there may only be a little time for homily. Nevertheless, we should underscore, identify and reflect on 10 of the moments of excruciating emotional and physical pains in the passion of Jesus:
1) He was betrayed with a kiss and sold out by one of his closest associates and another denied him three times.
2) His followers deserted him and fled ran away at a time he needed them most. This was in fulfilment of the prophecy: “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.
3) His disciples could not even pray with him for an hour in his moment of trouble, pain and mental anguish and at a time when his soul was deeply troubled and he could not sleep.
4) A young man who followed him, later ran away naked wearing nothing when he was intimidated by the enemies of Jesus.
5) A jealous and vicious group of elders brought forward false accusations against him and many ignorant people bore false witness against him.
6) They condemned him in his innocence and spat on him, struck him, covered his face and made a mockery of him.
7) The paschal victim was arraigned before a politician, a king who was a ‘people pleaser.’ He decided to satisfy the bloodthirsty crowd by killing an innocent man and setting a criminal, Barabbas free. Having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
8) They plaited a crown of thorn and put on his head and offered him wine mixed with myrrh.
9) They crucified him among robbers and divided his garments among them.
10) Even while he was writhing with pains on the cross, those who passed by derided him and those who were crucified with him reviled him.
Let us remember that through the crown of thorns Jesus won the crown of eternal glory. People humiliated him, but God exalted him after his death. When we face humiliation with every sense of humility and patience, God exalts us afterwards.
How could anyone forgive people who have caused him/her such pain and public disgrace? Jesus forgave his killers and we ought to learn to forgive people who have betrayed, hurt and injured us so badly.
What could be more difficult than to be abandoned by close friends in the moment of suffering? Jesus went through all this and yet did not reject his runaway friends afterwards. What is our attitude towards those who betray and disappoint us?
Jesus so loved us and gave his life for us on the cross. This action of Jesus goes a long way to say that everyone that truly loves must be ready to make some sacrifice. Greater love has no one than to lay down his/her life.
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of what the Church calls Holy Week. During the Holy Week the church celebrates what is known as the Paschal Mystery, which consists of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. The Paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Mass) is the climax of the season of Lent. Let us participate actively in the Holy Week ceremonies and listen attentively to the selected scriptural passages that will be read during the week. These passages make a lot of sense and help us to understand the life, suffering and death of Jesus better.
Passion Sunday: Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14-23:56