March 20, 2016


March 20, 2016:  Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

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Pope Francis homily
“Blessed is He who comes in the Lord's name!”, the crowd exclaimed as they welcomed Jesus.  By waving our branches we express our joy and desire to receive Jesus.  Just as he entered Jerusalem, so he desires to enter our lives.  He comes to us in humility as in the gospel; he forgives our sins and reconciles us to the Father and with ourselves.  Nothing could dampen the crowd's enthusiasm; Jesus is pleased with their affection.  May nothing prevent us from finding our joy and peace in him who alone saves us from sin, death, fear, and sadness.
The Lord didn't save us by his triumphal entry or powerful miracles.  Jesus “emptied” and “humbled” himself, showing God's boundless love for us.  He didn't cling to the glory that was his as Son of God; he lived among us as a servant.  The first sign of his love “without end” is the washing of the feet; he stoops to his disciples’ feet, as only servants did.  We need to allow his love to reach us, a love which bends down to us; we can't love without letting him love us first, experiencing his tenderness, and accepting that true love consists in concrete service.
Jesus' humiliation reaches its utmost in the Passion:  he is sold, betrayed by a disciple he chose and called friend, abandoned by most, denied by Peter, humiliated by mockery, insults and spitting.  He suffers brutality, shame and condemnation; he's made into sin and considered unjust.  Justice is denied him, and nobody wants to take responsibility for his fate.  The crowd who had acclaimed now accuses him and asks that a murderer be released instead of him.  On the cross he experiences isolation, defamation, pain, and abandonment by the Father, but he entrusts himself to him.  He confronts the temptation to come down from the cross, to conquer evil by might, but he instead reveals the face of God, mercy, forgiving those crucifying him, opening paradise to the repentant thief, and touching the centurion's heart.  The infinite Love poured out through him reached even to the tomb and hell.  He takes our pain that he may redeem it, bringing light to darkness, life to death, love to hatred.
God’s way seems so far from ours:  he was annihilated for us, but it's hard for us to forget ourselves even a little. We're called to choose his way of service, giving, self-forgetfulness.  Let us gaze upon the Crucifix and learn about the humble love that saves and gives life, and give up selfishness, and the seeking of power and fame.  Turn your face to him, ask for the grace to understand his obliteration for our sake, and contemplate the mystery of this Holy Week.
  • Lk 19:28-40 (palm procession gospel) As he drew near to Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples:  “Go into the village; you'll find a tethered colt.  Bring it here.  If anyone asks why, say the Master needs it.  So they went off and found it as he said.  The colt owners asked“Why are you untying the colt?”  They answered, “The Master needs it.”  They brought it to Jesus and helped him mount it.  His disciples praised God for the deeds they'd seen:  “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”  Some Pharisees asked him to rebuke them.  “If they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”
  • Jn 12:12-16  The crowd went out to meet Jesus with palm branches, crying “Hosanna!  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel.”...
  • Is 50:4-7  I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from spitting.  God is my help; I know I won't be put to shame.
  • Ps 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24  "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"  All mock me:  “He relied on the Lord; let him deliver him, if he loves him.”  Evildoers surround and pierce me; they cast lots for my garments.  Help me, Lord; I'll proclaim your name.
  • Phil 2:6-11  Christ Jesus didn't grasp at equality with God but emptied himself, coming in human likeness.  He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death.  God exalted him, so that at Jesus' name every knee should bend and every tongue confess that he is Lord.
      • Creighton:  Passion Sunday is full of doorways to grace.  The story is not a tragedy.  Jesus accepted his mission, humbling himself, obediently accepting his life and death.  It's hard to get deeply moved by a story so familiar.  Let me feel deep gratitude as I hear it again.  Thank you for saying yes in the garden.  I remember how I betrayed you, and I see how you heal and turned from violence.  It stings me as I think of how I've denied you.  Let me carry your cross in the ways you place it.  They nailed you to a cross and hoisted you up.  You were executed with torture, for me.  May the story come into my heart, so I might be more grateful for the gift of your complete love.  How could you have said, “Father, forgive them..."? Make my heart like yours, sharing mercy from the cross.  Let me desire communion with you more than anything else!  Let me put my life in our Father's hands, every day, throughout my day.
      • One Bread, One Body:  "A singular love":  For love of you, Jesus gave his back, didn't shield his face, and obediently accepted death on a cross.  Over a billion believe Jesus died on a cross for love of humanity, but how many believe he died for love of each one personally?  May we love him the same way.
      • Passionist:  Holy Week begins and ends in glory:  beginning with Jesus' welcoming with hosannas and palm branches, recognized as “the one who comes in the Lord's name,”  ending with Easter glory.  In between, we witness the power of evil and God's the absolute love of God.
      • As we recall these events we remember the jealousy and hatred, lies and deceit of the Scribes and Pharisees.  We witness the brutality and violence of the scourging, crowning with thorns, crucifixion and death imposed by the Romans.  We watch as fear generates so much uncertainty and mistrust leading to the betrayal by Judas and the abandonment of Jesus by his friends.
      • Yet at the center of all this fear, deceit, violence and brutality stands Jesus, steadfast through it all:
      • accepting everything with trust in the Father;
      • showing compassion for the weakness of those around him;
      • forgiving those caught up in betrayal and brutality.
      • We remember these events because they happened and through them the world, our lives and those of all humanity was changed.
      • We remember…not only with our minds but with our hearts.  In remembering we invite Jesus into our hearts to transform them…to make them more like his own.
        The Agony in the Garden/ El Greco
      •  "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord":  Jesus went to Jerusalem knowing what awaited him, while the people of Jerusalem hailed him as Messiah King!  Jesus' entry was fulfilled of the Messianic prophecy, "Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion.... Your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious, and riding on a colt...."  The colt was a sign of peace.  Jesus enters in meekness and humility, as King offering victory and peace, to be secured in the cross and resurrection.  "The master of humility is Christ who humbled himself and became obedient even to death... of the cross.  He doesn't lose his divinity when he teaches us humility... What great thing was it to the king of the ages to become the king of humanity?  For Christ was not the king of Israel to exact a tax or vanquish an enemy. He was the king of Israel, ruling minds, giving counsel, leading those who believe, hope, and love into the kingdom.  It is a condescension, not an advancement, for the Son of God, the Word through whom all was made, to become king of Israel; an indication of pity, not an increase in power" (Augustine, Tractates on John 51.3-4).   Psalm 24 echoes this triumphal procession:  "Lift up your heads, O gates... that the King of glory may come in."  Jesus came to bring us God's kingdom; he offers peace, joy, and life....
      Dress legend
      • 'Hand' tie pin:  "They pierced my hands and feet" (psalm); they laid hands on Jesus (gospel); 'Palm' Sunday (today's celebration)
      • 'Skeleton' tie pin:  "I can count all my bones" (psalm)
      • 'Gambling' tie:  "For my vesture they cast lots." (psalm)
      • 'Cross' pin:  Jesus became obedient to the point of ... death on a cross (2nd reading)
      • 'Wheat' pin, 'silverware' tie bar:  Last Supper:  he took bread... and a cup, saying...; they gave him myrrh-drugged wine (Passion)
      • 'Blood drop' pin:  “This is my blood..." (Passion)
      • 'Rooster' pin:  "Before the cock crows twice, you'll deny me three times" (Passion)
      • 'Coin' button:  They paid Judas thirty pieces of silver (Passion)
      • 'Clock' tie bar:  “My appointed time draws near”; "Peter, you couldn't keep watch with me one hour?" Darkness came from noon to 3pm (Passion)
      • 'Sheep' tie bar:  "I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed" (Passion)
      • 'Sword' tie pin:  Have you come out with swords...? (Passion)
      • '?' tie pin:  Pilate first questions Jesus, then the crowd (Passion)
      • 'Roses' pin:  they wove a crown out of thorns (Passion)
      • 'Stone' tie pin:  he rolled a stone against the tomb entrance (Passion)
      • 'Crown' tie bar:  They weaved him a crown of thorns (Passion)
      • 'Wood' tie pin:  wood of the cross (Passion)
      • Red shirt:  today's liturgical color
      • Purple suspenders:  Lenten season, though not today's color

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