25 March 2018Palm Sunday

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Palm Sunday
Passion: Palm Sunday - Cycle B - Mark 14:1-15:47

A bishop reports that logos for McDonald's, Shell Oil, and the Olympics are better recognized throughout the world than the cross. The Olympic symbol of five linked rings was recognized by 92% of people asked. McDonald's and Shell Oil logos were recognized by 88%. But the cross was recognized by only 54%. The conclusion is that the Olympics, McDonald's, and Shell Oil are better missionaries than we. The seventeenth century Dutch genius Rembrandt painted a crucifixion. His Christ is bathed in his signature white colors. At the foot of His cross are the usual suspects. However, off in a corner of the masterpiece is the face of an interloper. It is Rembrandt. He was reminding himself that he too because of his sins was responsible for the painful death of his Saviour. Scripture scholars insist that the details of Holy Week were the first to be written down by the Gospel writers. Early Christians were insistent that every detail of their Lord's passion and death should be preserved for us. This is the reason that today's Gospel is long and detailed. From the Gospels, we know only about the activities of 100 days from the 12,045 days of the life of Jesus. Yet, we know almost everything He did every hour of His last seven days. He spent the night preceding Palm Sunday at Bethany, an affluent bedroom community outside Jerusalem. He rose early. One hopes He had the farmer's breakfast.

He would need it. The last chapter of His earthly life was to be a showstopper. It would end not with a whimper but with a bang. He had the unenviable task of taking his many enemies on alone. Every detail of the Palm Sunday procession had been worked out by Him weeks before. It was not just a question of kidnapping a donkey and hopping on for the ride. The Master had long ago contacted the donkey's owners and arranged for the animal. The owners were disciples unknown even to the apostles. Even a password had been worked out between the Christ and the secret disciples: "The Master has need of it." When the owners were told the password by the unsuspecting apostles, they released the ass. There is a nice touch here. Jesus promised the owners the ass would be returned to them after the parade. He knew they would need it for work next day. So, even as His murder nears, He was thinking not of Himself but of others. The parade begins. This would be the only demonstration where Jesus would positively encourage people to salute Him as King. All other times He would not hear of it. He would flee into the mountains alone at the sight of the first monarchists. The hapless apostles would be left behind to placate the royalists.

This entrance into Jerusalem was an act of superb bravado. He was coming onto center stage. This was high noon. There was a price on His head. He was an outlaw wanted dead or alive. A posse was out looking for Him. Every young gunslinger in the city was hoping to make a name for himself by bringing Him down. They would be searching for Him. But He was not about to go into that dark, dark night quietly. Why has the cross remained so popular for us down through the centuries? Teachers report that they show children pictures from different stages of Christ's life. They invite them to pick their favorite. The pupils pass over scenes of the nativity or the Teacher surrounded by children their own age. Invariably they choose the card depicting the crucifixion. Even people who are A & P Catholics (Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday) have a cross hanging from their necks. I recently watched an old time gangster film. The two chief crooks were wearing large gold crosses. Surely the cross was reminding them that despite all their faults Jesus loved them enough to die for them. Is it not telling them that Christ does not make garbage? Does it not send us the same message? We should borrow a brush from Rembrandt. Then dipping it into his lush palette, we should paint our faces into the passion picture. We had much more to do with it than we care to admit. The cross, the savant tells us, reveals people's hatred for God and God's love for people. Also he says that believing Christ died is history and believing He died for me is salvation. Finally it reminds us, the savant says, that while many people may be worthy of admiration, only Jesus is worthy of adoration. 

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion: It's easy to say Hosanna. It's hard to stand under the cross.

This liturgy contains a huge contrast. We began with the Triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We joined the crowds in proclaiming, "Hosanna." We marched into the Church singing "All Glory Praise and Honor," and then, suddenly, the mood darkens. We see the priest take off the white cloak and put on red vestments. We heard the reading about the suffering servant. We heard how Christ emptied himself, accepting death on a cross. And then we proclaimed the Passion. We really are thrown by the liturgy. Is this a triumphal celebration or a remembrance of the Cross? The Church catches this contrast even in its naming of the day. It is no longer just "Palm Sunday." Nor is it "Passion Sunday." No, the proper name of today's celebration is Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion. Today, exaltation and suffering are intertwined.

Perhaps this weekend, as in the past, a thoughtful parishioner, many times a child, will make a cross out of palm for me. I like to keep one in my suit pocket. I also like to put palms around the pictures in my house. I want to remember what took place and what takes place. I want to remember the events of 2000 years ago and my own participation in these events today. I want to remember the times that I am upbeat and full of enthusiasm in my faith, and I want to remember the times that I run from the challenges the faith demands, the challenges of the cross. Where were the crowds on Calvary? Where am I when confronted with the challenges of life? Where are you? Can we climb Golgotha and unite our difficulties to his cross, or do we only want to be in the presence of the Lord when we can say "Hosanna?" Is our faith a matter of good feelings, or are we committed to the Lord? We have many choices in life.

The most important of these is our decision to accept Jesus Christ. But accepting the Lord means being united to him both in his glory and in his passion. Accepting the Lord means being united to him in the joyful times of our lives and through the challenges of our lives. We celebrate Holy Week this week. The holiest week of the year is given to us to remember the past and allow it to be a reality in our present. And so we approach the sacrament of penance if we have not already done so during Lent, and we ask forgiveness for the times we have turned from the Lord, perhaps even run from the Lord. We attend the Solemn Mass of the Lord's Supper on Thursday and we pray that we might be faithful to the new and eternal covenant of the Blood. We venerate the cross on Good Friday and enter into a deep meditation on its wondrous power. And, finally, we celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday, exalting in the gift of the eternal life of Christ. Come and pray with your parish this week. May this be a holy week for you and your families.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Palm Sunday
Finding Hope When Life Hurts Week 6: Best Holy Week Ever
(March 25, 2018)

Bottom line: The Case for Jesus and "Who Am I to Judge" will help you have the best Holy Week ever. Palm Sunday, you may know, is also called Passion Sunday because we listen the account of Jesus' trial, his way of the cross and his agonizing death. I'd like to highlight three things. First the charge against Jesus - blasphemy. According to Sanhedrin Jesus is only a human yet he makes himself out to be God. In The Case for Jesus Dr. Brant Pitre analyzes the significance of this charge and he asks a fundamental question: Were the authorities correct? Is Jesus a blasphemer or is he truly God? Second, Jesus' cry from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Dr. Pitre analyzes this perplexing Bible verse and show how we need to understand it in its original Jewish context. If you have puzzled about Jesus' apparent cry of despair, I encourage you to read The Case for Jesus. Third, judgement. Throughout the Passion narrative people are judging each other. Some judged the woman who poured precious oil over Jesus. It could have been sold to help the poor and they were infuriated with her. The crowds judge by preferring Barabbas to Jesus. "Crucify him," they shouted.

The chief priests for their part judged Jesus by mocking him. Judgment is often misguided and cruel but that does not mean we should be like Pilate. He avoided responsibility by cynically asking, "What is truth?" For that question I offer you a CD titled, "Who Am I to Judge?" It's a huge question with enormous consequences. For that reason I want to give each adult a recording of Dr. Edward Sri's talk. Listen to it in your car, in your room or with your family. This one hour talk may change your life - and will enable you to help a young person who has fallen into relativism: the belief that there is no right or wrong, no true or false. So today take home the CD "Who Am I to Judge?" and if you don't already have it, The Case for Jesus. Read chapter 11 on crucifixion. They will help you have the best Holy Week ever. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Palm Sunday
Passion Sunday, Classic Mark 14: 1–15: 47

Gospel Summary
For us Christians, the story of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus represents the climax, not just of the earthly career of our Lord, but of all biblical revelation. The first part of this Passion story, without the Resurrection, is the gospel selection for this last Sunday of Lent. It is impossible to comment on all the elements of this lengthy and incredibly rich gospel passage, and so I have decided to offer some thoughts on a little "story-within-the-story," which is the anointing of Jesus by an unnamed woman at the very beginning of the narrative. At first glance, this episode appears to be completely irrelevant and we may be tempted to dismiss it until we read, at the end of the story, that it is indispensable to the Passion story itself: "…wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." This story is so important because it is related to the Passion of Jesus in the same way that a key signature is related to the music that follows. What this woman did, therefore, tells us how to read and understand the Passion of Jesus. Briefly stated, her seemingly extravagant anointing of Jesus represents, in microcosm, what Jesus himself is about to do for the whole world. Just as she breaks open the exquisite alabaster cruet and pours its precious and fragrant ointment on the head of Jesus in anticipation of his death and burial, so also Jesus will allow his body to be broken in death and will pour the precious ointment of his life-blood on all of us who are destined to die. Her action is considered wasteful and foolish by the bystanders, so that Jesus must correct them as he praises this woman for her generosity.

 And, in like manner, what Jesus does may appear to be foolish and wasteful to an unbelieving and cynical world, but his Father will raise him from the dead and thereby confirm forever the wisdom of his generosity. Life Implications If we take this little story of the anointing of Jesus seriously, we will learn that the passion story is not primarily about how much Jesus suffered, but rather about how much he loved. He did suffer, of course, and his suffering was intense. But suffering as such is not necessarily redemptive. What makes the pain and suffering of Jesus the source of salvation for us is the fact that it resulted from his extraordinary loving. We all know that suffering can come from other sources than loving, such as not getting our own way or being wedded to false goals, but this kind of selfish suffering has nothing in common with the suffering of Jesus. And so, for example, when we make the Way of the Cross (the Stations), we may be tempted to say: "I'm with you, Jesus. I'm suffering just as you did!" But Jesus could very well say to us, "Are you suffering because you love? If so, by all means join me, and we will walk together toward Resurrection. Otherwise, please try to learn the real meaning of love."

The love of Jesus is unselfish and therefore will always involve the pain of self-denial. In like manner, good parents suffer as they make sacrifices for their children, just as children suffer when they try to be more mature and unselfish. Some suffering always results when we place the needs of others before our own interests. Old people also suffer when they trust God's goodness and promises in spite of the apparent hopelessness of their situation. But it is also true that such loving sacrifice always brings with it real joy, as well as the promise of eternal happiness. In this very real human suffering that inevitably follows real loving, we can be comforted by the assurance that we are being anointed with the precious blood of Jesus. This enables us to walk with him on the way of the cross—that loving, painful path that leads to glory. When we do this, we too will be called foolish and be told that we are wasting our lives by not working for ourselves alone. But Jesus will tell us, as he told that generous and sensitive woman, that what we do is not foolish but "a good thing." Nothing can be more comforting than to hear Jesus make such a wonderful judgment about our feeble efforts to walk with Jesus. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Palm Sunday, Modern Gospel Mk 14:1 – 15:47
The Passion Reading for Palm Sunday is a three year rotation of Matthew's, Mark's and Luke's Gospel account of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each of these Gospel accounts describes the Last Supper, the arrest and trial of Jesus, his passion and death, and ends with his burial. The Divine Inspiration that produces these Gospels works through the unique perspective and teaching gifts of each of the Evangelists. Three different accounts speak of the same mystery of Faith that we profess each time we take part in Holy Mass; "We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again." This year we hear the account from St. Mark. His account of the Passion, while the shortest, does not short change us on bringing various elements of the mission and ministry of Jesus into the Passion. First we hear of his visit to the house of Simon the Leper. Simon no doubt had been cured so as to be living back in the community and entertaining people. It was in the midst of this meal that a woman comes in and anoints the feet of Jesus. It's interesting that the people with Simon would become indignant at Jesus allowing this outcast to anoint him while in the house of Simon who was once an outcast.

This scene cuts away to the account of Judas betraying Jesus. We then begin the account of the Last Supper that we are all so familiar with. In all of this Jesus remains focused to his mission of savior of the world. His ministry and the plots and attacks are all based on who Jesus is, and the failure of people to recognize Him. As we enter Holy Week it might benefit us to connect what we hear on Palm Sunday with what we heard in Matthew's Gospel on Ash Wednesday, When you give alms…, when you pray…., when you fast... Jesus didn't suggest or give an invitation to give alms, pray and fast, he speaks under the assumption that we are doing these and gives an instruction on how to do so with sincerity and devotion. How have we been at our Lenten almsgiving, prayer and fasting? In the Passion account Jesus does not merely remind us, he shows us how to sincerely offer ourselves in obedience to the Father. Jesus gave the ultimate alms when he gave himself completely to death on the cross. He gave all that he had without holding back anything. A very basic question for us is when we give alms do we merely give from our surplus or is it sacrificial in that it results in giving up doing or buying something that we really had our hearts set on. Jesus prays the ultimate prayer in Gethsemane when he says; "not as I will, but as you will." The "Thy will be done," in the Lord's prayer is not just a nice phrase, it is the way Jesus prayed and lived. We are gifted with a free will and when we freely surrender our will to the will of the Father we find that we will be both challenged to let go and enriched by a new sense of freedom that comes in trusting God. The last point is fasting. Fasting is very often directly connected to repentance Jesus, himself, has no need to repent for he is without sin. Rather he takes on our sins and accepts the punishment for our sins so that we might truly experience the forgiveness of sins in our lives, and ultimately be happy with him forever in heaven. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Palm Sunday

Today as we began our procession we heard the account from Mark's Gospel of how Jesus entered Jerusalem and was proclaimed as the Messiah by his disciples and the ordinary people. There is one interesting detail which is recorded in virtually the same words in all of the Synoptic Gospels, that is Matthew, Mark and Luke. Jesus instructs his disciples to go into a village and find a donkey tethered there. They were to bring the donkey to Jesus, but if the owners objected they were simply to say, ‘The Master needs it and will send it back directly.' Clearly Jesus had made some private arrangement with these people. We don't know who they are and they are not mentioned again in the Gospel story. Whether Jesus paid them for the loan of their donkey we do not know. However, I like to think that they were sympathetic to Jesus and loaned their donkey willingly and freely. They can't have been open followers of Jesus otherwise they would have recognised the disciples. But perhaps they were secret sympathisers with Jesus' cause. At the time they surely didn't know why the donkey was being borrowed and they most certainly wouldn't have realised what was in store for Jesus later in that fateful week.

Maybe though, afterwards, they came to the understanding that their donkey had been used to enable the Messiah to enter his holy city in a most fitting manner. Perhaps this realisation helped them after the resurrection to move from being mere sympathisers to become true believers in Jesus. Sometimes it is an insignificant act that starts us on the path to true faith. You may recall the legend about the cross that every donkey has on its back. It tells us that the donkey that bore Jesus on Palm Sunday happened to be there when Christ was ascending Mount Calvary carrying his Cross. The donkey saw Jesus' plight and wished that it could carry the Cross for him, since it was a beast of burden and well suited to carrying heavy weights. In reward for the love this donkey demonstrated towards Jesus, God caused the shadow of the Cross to fall on the donkey's back. It then would become a living sign of God's love through all the ages. Of course, this may be just a pious story but it is a beautiful one and contains the truth that our love and loyalty to Christ will most certainly be rewarded. The senior priests and citizens of Jerusalem certainly did not expect the Messiah to enter his city on a donkey accompanied by poor people waving palms. As far as they were concerned this Jesus was a troublemaker and if he persisted in opposing them then there was only one solution. And it was a solution they would swiftly put into action. Little did they realise that their nailing Jesus to the Cross would bring their rule crashing down and inaugurate the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God.

They had no clue that this Jesus was the Son of God and that by breaking through the barrier of death he would open up the way to eternal life for all who believe in him. We have begun Holy Week and we now accompany Jesus in his last days. We will see him celebrate the Last Supper with his Apostles, we will witness his Agony in the Garden, we will observe his betrayal by one of his close followers, we will view his trial and his scourging, we will accompany him on his journey to the Hill of Calvary. We will be there when he is nailed to the Cross and we will gaze on him in his last agony. We will honour him in the moment of his death and we will accompany his body to the tomb in the hillside. And then we will wait. We will wait and then with Mary Magdalene we will go to the tomb early in the morning to find it empty, coming to the realisation that Jesus is risen from the dead. And then our joy will be complete. In the Catholic Church witnessing the events which make up the Pascal Mystery is never merely an intellectual exercise.

No, we Catholics completely immerse ourselves in the liturgy, which in a most extraordinary way makes those wonderful happenings present to us in real time. We do not observe the Pascal Mystery as an outsider from a distance. No, through the liturgy we become part of these events. They become present to us in the here and now. This is brought home to us in a very concrete way in our celebration of the Eucharist where time past, present and future come together on our altar. The Last Supper, two thousand years in the past; the Eucharist we celebrate today; and the Banquet of Heaven, which is far away in the future; on our altar these three things come together and, through one of God's greatest gifts, we are present at all three of them. Today we witness Christ enter his Holy City humbly, and yet triumphantly for those with eyes to see. Today we carry our palms and we will keep them in our homes during the coming year. Many Catholics will place then behind the Crucifix which is hung in a place of honour in the home. Whenever we look at those palms we will recall Christ riding on his donkey making his entry into the city which would be the place where he would inaugurate the Kingdom of God and the open the gates of heaven.

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