YEAR C: HOMILY FOR PASSION SUNDAY
HOMILY THEME: THE GREAT AND HOLY WEEK
BY: Fr. Cosmas Ukadike, C.M.
HOMILY: This is the most solemn week of the liturgical year. Once called the ‘Great Week‘, nowadays we know it as ‘Holy Week‘. In it we witness the total self-giving of Jesus.
St Paul describes it as his “kenosis” (Greek: κένωσις is the act of emptying) or ‘self-emptying’ by which Jesus made himself entirely receptive to the divine will. See Philippians 2:7 “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” St. Paul affirms a total vindication of Jesus: “God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name” (Phil 2,9).
Palm Sunday is the final Sunday of Lent, the beginning of Holy Week, and commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, days before he was crucified. Palm Sunday is known as such because the faithful will often receive palm fronds which they use to participate in the reenactment of Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem. In the Gospels, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a young donkey, and to the lavish praise of the townspeople who threw clothes, or possibly palms or small branches, in front of him as a sign of homage. This was a customary practice for people of great respect. Palm branches are widely recognized symbol of peace and victory, hence their preferred use on Palm Sunday. The use of a donkey instead of a horse is highly symbolic; it represents the humble arrival of someone in peace, as opposed to arriving on a horse for war.
Our liturgy this week invites us to follow Jesus every step of the way, beginning with his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. There he was welcomed, applauded and acclaimed by a crowd of well-wishers. On Thursday we will join him at table, to receive his gift of himself in the Eucharistic bread and wine. After dining with him we will, in our reflections, go with him along the trail from the Upper Room to the Garden of Olives. There we will see him struggling with fear and anxiety about the cruel death that awaits him.
On Good Friday we will be standing in spirit beside his mother at the foot of the cross, while he hands his spirit back to the Father who sent him.
On Saturday we will be quiet and silent around his tomb, as we remember the injustice and cruelty of humanity, for which he died. Then, late on Saturday, we will move from the darkness of our Passion journey to the place of the bright Easter fire. There we will join the procession of the great Paschal Candle, representing the risen Christ, as he lights up the darkness of our church and lives.
The pain of our compassion with Jesus to Calvary will give way to the hope and joy of Easter. Jesus Christ is not dead and gone. No, he is risen, strong and powerful, alive in himself, and alive in us.
The events of the Lord’s passion constantly remind us that evil and death can never have an upper hand so long as God exists and reigns on his throne.
This assurance came when; Christ Jesus mounted the wood of the cross and brought us salvation, by breaking the shackles of evil and death. So in John 16,33 He decreed, “be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world”. As we match into this Great and Holy week, let us walk with confidence, treading on all our sins, sorrows and shame for Christ has given us victory.
It is well with you.
Have a Spirit filled Holy week
Fr. Cosmas Ukadike, C.M.