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Deacon Tom's Sunday Homily for April 5, 2020
Palm Sunday (The Passion of the Lord)
1st Gospel Reading Matthew 21:1-11
1st Reading Isaiah 50:4-7
2nd Reading Philippians 2:6-11
Gospel Matthew 26:14-27,66
Three things I want to share with you today:
1. Five weeks ago, we began the holy season of Lent to prepare ourselves for the heart and soul of our Christian faith known as the "Easter Triduum", sometimes also referred to as the Paschal Triduum. It is the three-day period that recalls the passion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, from the evening of Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. Today we start the sixth and final week of Lent, known as Holy Week, which starts on Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem and His passion.
The word "passion" is mostly associated with an intense and strong feeling or emotion or a compelling desire for something. We use the word "passion" to describe the suffering endured by Jesus during the last days of his life on earth, especially the crucifixion. "Passion Sunday" came from the Biblical texts assigned to that day, which compared the animal sacrifices offered by the ancient Jewish priests with Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross.
The celebration of Palm Sunday seems to have originated in Jerusalem, around the late fourth century, when the Roman Emperor, Constantine, made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire, and the believers in Jerusalem began to re-enact the solemn entry of Jesus into their city on the Sunday before Easter, in a procession during which they waved palm and olive branches, recited prayers and sang praises to God.
2. Today we read two gospel texts. The first gospel reading recounted Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
I must note two things here:
Just a few days earlier Jesus had demonstrated His power over death by raising his friend, Lazarus from the tomb. It was probably the greatest miracle that Jesus had ever worked. Many people who had witnessed the miracle were moved to believe in Jesus.
Jesus went to Jerusalem a few days before the great Passover feast. At such a time, the roads were probably crowded with Jewish people who had come for Passover. So, we can imagine how great the excitement of the crowds must have been as Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. The jubilant and happy crowd welcomed Jesus into their city by laying their clothes on the ground and waving palm branches in front of him as a symbol of victory, while shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord".
The word "hosanna" comes from the Hebrew word "Hosha-na" which means, "to save", or "rescue". That's to say, the crowds essentially were acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah who saves. The second gospel reading was about Jesus Christ's agony and suffering on the cross, Matthew (26:14-27:66). It narrates the denial, betrayal, mockery, abuse, beatings, humiliation and rejection that Jesus endured for the salvation of humankind.
These readings present two contradictory views of our own lives. We all have our moments of triumph, victory and joy, and moments of pain, sorrows and suffering. We feel happy and elated when we are successful; when our wishes and needs are fulfilled; when our jobs are secure; when people close to us love us dearly; when we enjoy good health; when people appreciate, applaud, praise, honor and encourage us.
However, at times we also feel very low, isolated and unhappy when we are betrayed by people we love; when we are insulted and humiliated; when we are neglected, or left neglected and unloved by our families and friends; when we are unjustly judged, and condemned by our neighbors and co-workers; when we are denied justice and fair treatment at work and when we, like Jesus himself on the cross, feel abandoned or forsaken.
In today's gospel, we are greatly encouraged to know that God, who came among us in the person of Jesus Christ, bore all the suffering and evil which we human beings encounter, and that even Jesus Himself felt sad and abandoned. At the same time, we can take comfort in knowing that the same Lord is standing by us and will strengthen us when we feel abandoned.
3. I believe that through self-examination, prayer, fasting, penance, sacrifice and good works, we have adequately prepared ourselves to receive every blessing that God offers us this Holy Week. From Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, we should read a great deal of scriptures, observe many rites and rituals and say some special prayers.
I encourage all of you to participate from home with devotion and faith; praise and thanksgiving to our Lord Jesus Christ who came to live like one of us and to share fully in the hopes, fears, joys and sorrows of our lives, and to let us know that God loves us, forgives us and desires to give us life in all its fullness; and to pray to Him to be a source of grace and strength at this time of great fear in our country.
Remember, we have to face what He faced in his earthly life. May this truly be a holy time for all of us!
Deacon Thomas M. Sullivan, PGK
LATE BREAKING NEWS FROM SK JIM BIRD
The K of C Convention scheduled for May 17th - May 19th has been cancelled.
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