Homily for Palm/Passion Sunday – Year A

Hosanna! Our Humble Servant-King Comes in Glory!!
Readings: (Mtt 21:1-11); 1st: 50: 4-7; Ps 21: 8-24; 2nd: Phil 2:6-8; Gos: Mtt 26:14-26:66)

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

Today is Palm/Passion Sunday. This day marks the actual kick off of the Paschal Mystery, the journey of our salvation. It is the final journey that brings our Lord to the climax of his ordeal and costly sacrifice for the redemption of humanity. Hence, the Church celebrates Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem in order to accomplish his Paschal Mystery for our sake. Today Ignorant of what await Christ many proclaim him king and shout hosanna in the usual crowd mentality and fashion. Would these same hosanna singers still remain with him? We shall find out the answer to this question on Good Friday.
Today’s celebration is full of symbols. Some of these include: The palm branches and cloths laid on the way for Jesus. The green palm branch as we know is a sign of peace, freshness, royalty, and of course restoration; the crowd symbolizes both praise and denial because, it is this same people who today shout hosanna that will latter on shout crucify him!; Jerusalem of this time is a symbol of crown, glory and the cross because, it is in it that Jesus was crowned king and it is also in it that He will be crucified, and also it is in it that he will resurrect. Finally, the donkey or the colt which is a beast of burden on which Christ rode is highly symbolic and significant of Christ’s own humility in fulfillment of the prophecy: “…he is humble; he rides on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” Christ’s humility here is quite contrary to the flamboyant and reckless display of wealth, power and firm by our rulers and leaders today. In spite of the fact that he is God, he condescended so low as to ride on the poorest of beasts. He did not need to block all the roads and cause untold hardship to his people because he was passing by. He did not violate traffic rules because he is Lord; he needed no soldiers and heavily armed security officers or bullet proof equipments to intimidate his people because he was passing by and there was no need of sirens in order to clear the road for him alone to pass through it. Instead, he simply mounted a colt and made his royal, courageous and brave entry into Jerusalem. Of course, he knew it was time to accomplish his mission on earth and so there was nothing to be afraid of. He displayed the true quality of a self-sacrificing king.
Our first reading today, highlights the ordeal of the Lamb. This is one of the “ebed Yahweh” (Servant of God) song. The core message of this reading and song is the humility of the Suffering Servant of God who in spite of the pains inflicted on him did not shy away from his duty to serve both his master and those to whom he was sent to take care of. Hence, he says: “For my part I made no resistance, neither did I cover my face against insults and spittle.” This song is all about the humility of Jesus Christ whom we celebrate today as the triumphant King of the ages. It is all about the humble servant of God who in spite of being God himself, accepted to offer himself wholeheartedly and, it is about the one Isaiah says: “…But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Ish 53, 5).
In the second reading, Paul highlighted the greatness and depth of Jesus’ humility. He recalled the kenosis (self-emptying) of Jesus: “though he was in the form of God he did not count equality with God…” Paul therefore admonishes us to be like Jesus, by living a simple, humble, charitable, gentle and kind life. Unfortunately, we live in a world of show offs and flamboyancy, in a world where pride is the better half of our humanity. Humility attracts both God and human while pride repulses them. We must therefore make efforts to emulate Christ’s humility and ensure that our life is fashioned after his. Self emptying means being ready to sacrifice, to go to where ordinarily one would not wish to go to, it means being ready to die for the other, ones flock, friends and people. Pride on the other hand leads us nowhere but to humiliation and shame.
The Passion narrative of this Sunday according to Matthew in a nutshell, opens up to us like our first reading, the ordeal of Jesus Christ the humble servant of God. Also, the passion narrative according to Matthew like in the other three gospels can be divided into the following scenes: Jesus’ arrest, his arraignment before officials of the Sanhedrin on Holy Thursday evening, his trial before Pilate on Good Friday morning, his suffering, and his death. It has a dialectical undertone and character, and so presents us with the different aspects of life and characters we encounter or even exhibit in everyday life. It is a drama of praise and pain, a drama of royalty and servant-hood, a drama of denial, betrayal and humility. It started like a comedy but ended up in tragedy because, what started with Hosanna, Hosanna ended up with crucify Him, crucify Him! What an Irony that the same people who sang his praise a few moments ago turned out to be the same people now to shout crucify him, crucify him! They remind us that at the cross there is but a thin line between faithfulness and treachery. We are constantly tempted to broach that line. However, in all of these, God is at work. A journey that started joyfully and seemed to have been extinguished in sorrow will definitely be accomplished in the most joyful way at Easter which is our destination and the climax of today’s procession. If we do not lose hope or faint, the procession we started today will end up in the glory of Easter!
The passion narrative of Jesus Christ is very crucial in our grasping of a holistic and true nature of God and Christ. Christologically speaking, it presents us with the “nature” of Christ as true man, as a God who suffers, feels pains and can “die” like every other human being. In other words it is Christology from below. Through the passion of Christ, the cross has become our main symbol and he says to us: “In Hoc Signo Vinces (In this sign you shall conquer!”). So, instead of understanding Jesus simply and only as a great teacher, or as the glorious Lord of Easter, we can now think of him too as the crucified Christ, who gives his life for humanity. So, the way we think of Christ is important for our own lives. Jesus Christ calls us to be his disciples, taking up the cross, dying to our own selves, our selfishness, in order that we might look out upon the world to serve it. We are not called upon to do anything that Christ has not done. His death for us and for humanity is sufficient. But we are set free from the consequences of sin to serve others in the world. So, as we shout Hosanna! Hosanna!! Hosanna!!! today, let us be mindful of the yeast of the Pharisees and so pray God to keep us faithful till we see the final glory of Christ on Easter day, when we shall conclude our procession with the great Alleluia!, Alleluia!!, Alleluia!!!
Peace be with you all!



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