Homily for 17 April 2011 – Palm/Passion Sunday – Year A

Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Psalm 22; Matthew 26:14-27:66.

Today, Palm and Passion Sunday, is always about contrasts. How the same people who were lauding Jesus as the Messiah during his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, a few days later were calling for his crucifixion. Even some of his own disciples disowned him. The reasons for this have to do with the reality of our fallen human nature. We follow along with the crowd, yelling “hosanna” and waving our palm branches, but when it looks like we, personally, are threatened because the person we were praising is now in trouble with the authorities and we might be hauled in with him, we switch sides. Our fallen nature always looks out for #1, always seeks what is good, or perceived as good, for itself. Rather than a contrast, this is more of a continuum, and a continuum we go through on an almost daily basis.

We wake up in the morning with the intention to be faithful, obedient, loving and kind. Then we get up and life happens. By the time the day is over, far from being faithful we have sinned repeatedly in thought, word and deed, have rejected Christ in choosing to do so; have failed in love, kindness, patience and repentance. Every day we go through our own Holy Week, following the path from exaltation to abject failure; but there is hope, because that is not the end, it is only a stopping point on our personal way of the Cross. Because this Way leads to Calvary, the death of self, and selfishness, and the transformation of the Resurrection. Even if we do fail every day in our desire to be true to our faith, true to our Lord, we must keep going to the end, which is a new beginning. In following Christ we need to follow him all the way, and not get stuck in the betrayal of Maundy Thursday, or the death of Good Friday, or even the silence of Holy Saturday, we must follow all the way to Sunday morning. Hell has been harrowed, the dead raised, the tomb is empty, we are free – to start over again on Monday.

The worst thing we can do is get discouraged because we fail, we should be more discouraged if we don’t. The only way not to fail is not to try. And we don’t always fail, even two steps forward and one step back is progress, slow, but in the right direction. Luckily we are not being timed on our journey of faith, there is no Divine clock running. Our success in the journey is not measured by how long it takes, after all it is an eternal path, nor by how many times we fall down or get lost, but on how many times we get up and keep going, no matter what. As we all know, life can be almost unbearably hard and painful, and we feel crushed under the weight of it, but if we are following Jesus’ footsteps, he is there with us, in his Body the Church, in his Body and Blood in the Eucharist, in the Presence of his Spirit in our hearts and lives, however overwhelmed we may be, we are not alone, we are not abandoned, we are not orphaned; we are loved, healed, upheld, forgiven.

Wherever we are we can find rest and hope in his Presence, and courage and strength to continue.

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