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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Homily for Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

When Our Lord entered into Jerusalem in the Gospel reading that we heard at the beginning of Mass, He was greeted by a great crowd that rejoiced and sang hymns of praise. Where were those people at the end of the week when Our Lord hung on the Cross? Many members of the crowd that were praising him at the beginning of the week may have been jeering and insulting him as He was treading through the streets of Jerusalem carrying His cross. They may have been a part of the crowd that had been riled up by the Jewish authorities to call for His death.

Why the change over only a week? They were looking for an Earthly king, a king who would lead the Jewish people out from the oppression of the Roman Empire. They were looking for a king who would establish a new kingdom of David, fighting the wars that needed to be fought and would lead the people into the glorious new Kingdom of Israel. They were looking for a great king who would become the next King David, conquering the enemies and uniting the people.

Was that the mission of Our Lord, to become an earthly king? No, it wasn't. Our Lord did not come to Earth to find earthly honors and glory. He had all the honors and glory that he could ever want in heaven, and he willingly gave that up. He humbled himself and came to earth, becoming a human being just like any of us. St. Paul says it so eloquently in the second reading: “[He] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming human likeness and found human in appearance.” (Phil. 2:6-7) In other words, He became one of us.

He lived a simple life here on earth. He preached, He taught, He led, He healed, He challenged, and in the end He died for our sins. He died in the most humiliating and painful way that the Roman Empire used: Crucifixion. Our Lord not only humbled himself to become human, but humbled himself again to be hoisted up on that Cross, to be treated like a common criminal. He was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:8)

He died as a common criminal, but that's also where Our Lord got his greatest honor. St. Paul tells us that “God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.” (Phil. 2:9) When he was lifted up on the Cross and died there, his name became glorified to all the nations. To this day, Our Lord is known and praised throughout the world for the fact that he did die for our sins and that he is the Son of God. If he had been just an earthly king, his name would probably be just another footnote in the history books, just like the Caesars who ruled at the time that Our Lord lived.

Our Lord's name is praised to the heavens because He humbled Himself and did the father's will, even to His death. All of us are called to follow His example and be humbled to the father's will. We are not called to seek earthly honors or submit ourselves to whatever the world tells us is the popular or relevant view. Instead, we are to find the Truth, as proclaimed by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and follow it. Sometimes the culture might agree, sometimes not. Either way, as Christians we are called to follow the Gospel proclaimed by Our Lord without compromise and without apology. May this celebration of Our Lord's Passion give us the graces to follow His Gospel throughout our lives.

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