My traditional Palm Sunday homily. . .a tradition since 2007!
Palm Sunday 2014
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Lay Carmelites/Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA
Paul says that Jesus, emptying himself, took on the form of a slave and
became one of us to die as one of us for all of us. We can cheer all we
want. Wave palms all we want. No one here will ask Jesus to let his cup
pass. No one here will volunteer to hang on that cross and let Jesus go
free. Are we cowards? No. We know that Jesus must die so that we might
live. The certainty of his death is the only possibility of our eternal
life. Only he is Son of God, Son of Man; fully human, fully divine. His
death pulls us down into the grave and his rising again draws us up with
him. Everything that needs to be healed will be healed. All repairs
will be made. Nothing will be left broken or hurt.
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But today, just today, knowing what we know about his journey from here
to the tomb, even still we must cheer and whistle. And wave palms. And
shout “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” And we want so
much to grab the tail end of his departing scene and pull it back, just
yank it back to the garden or the roaring sea or the mountaintop or the
desert or to any of the dozens of places where we sat with him to listen
to God’s wisdom, to see the radiant glory of his love for us.
We want him anywhere but here in Jerusalem. He rides to the cross, ya
know? And we must cheer. We must cheer because later we will shout,
“Crucify him! Crucify him!” What did we forget between our cheering him
into the city and our heckling him to the cross, between our exuberant
welcome and our jeering blood lust? To be Christ we must follow Christ.
Who wants to follow Christ to the cross? Who wants their flesh torn and
bleeding? Who wants the thorns of a mocking crown piercing their scalp? I
deny him. I do not know him. No, I’m not his disciple. Never heard of
him, never met him. Who? Who? No, sorry, doesn’t ring a bell.
We’ve come too far for that now, brothers and sisters! That desert was
forty days long. Along the way we dropped coffee and tea, booze and
cigarettes, TV and shopping, email and chocolate. We dropped gossiping,
nagging, sex, meat, cussing. We picked up extra hours of prayer, daily
Mass, weekly confession, spiritual reading, volunteer hours, being nice
to little brother and sister, obeying mom and dad, obeying husband or
wife, extra money in the plate on Sunday. The devil bought out his best
temptations to show us our weaknesses and sometimes he won and sometimes
we won. But he knows and you need to know if you don’t already: God
wins all the time, every time, for all time! And He has given us Easter
to prove it. But now…if you will be Christ you must follow Christ. Walk
right behind him. Feel the stones. Wipe the spit. Hear the curses and
jeers. Taste the salty iron of blood. See the cross on his shoulder. And
know that he carries for you the only means of your salvation. The
sacrificial victim carries his own altar to the church of the skulls.
How far will you follow?