I apologize to readers for the previous posting regarding Fr. Jim’s homily not being available. I had gotten an email from him with the heading Homily for March 27, 2016 and thought it was for next Sunday so I did not open it. It is actually for this Sunday. Enjoy!!….Reyanna
•Isaiah 50:4-7 • Philippians 2:6-11 • Luke 19:28-40•
Weekly Scripture Readings: Palm Sunday
For a printable PDF of the homily, click HERE.
Today we are entering liturgical prime time. Holy Week is full of words and packed with action. Mystery takes the initiative and if we open our minds and hearts to the Mystery, this week will, as the poet says, “catch the heart off guard and blow it open.”
We begin this Holy Week remembering Jesus entered Jerusalem mounted on a colt. Luke does not emphasize the entry into Jerusalem as such. He pays more attention to the “colt that has never been ridden” and how they obtained the colt. Then he adds “after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.” Most scholars agree that with this description Luke is signaling the fulfillment of the words of Zechariah from the Hebrew bible.
What impelled him to make this trip? It was Passover and groups of pilgrims were coming from every direction singing with joy at the end of their long walk. On the other side of the city Pilate entered the city as a conquering warrior king riding on a war-horse. We have no way of knowing what Jesus was thinking as he entered the city.
Luke tells us that “as Jesus came near the city, he wept over it saying, ‘If only you had recognized on this day the things that make for peace!’.” “If only you had recognized on this day the things that make for peace!.” Luke is emphatic that Jesus rode on a lowly beast, a small colt. He was proclaiming nonviolence and peace.
Remember this. Jesus was born into a dominant culture that was much like our own is becoming. It was a society split between the very rich and the very poor. Political unrest was widespread. Most protests against imperial rule in Roman Palestine were nonviolent and expressed with noncooperation. When revolts, uprisings and terrorism did occur, they were ruthlessly put down. The city of Sepphoris near Nazareth was razed and burned to the ground.
Jesus knew that any confrontation with either the Jewish or the Roman ruling class would be dangerous. Although he warned his disciples they must be ready to “take up the cross,” there is no evidence he was planning a military insurrection.
He proclaimed a real alternative to the violence and oppression of imperial rule. Listen to his words to his close companions. “If someone slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too.” “If someone steals your cloak, give them your tunic.” “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.” He forbid his disciples to injure others, or to retaliate aggressively. He did not resist his arrest and rebuked the disciple who cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.
We don’t know how many but apparently some of the pilgrims heard of Jesus and spontaneously shouted their gratitude for all he was teaching and doing. Their exuberant shouting was provocative.
Palm Sunday reminds us that Jesus of Nazareth was a man of nonviolence living in a violent empire. We also live in an imperial world of violence. Political unrest is widespread. The split between the very rich and the very poor is growing.
The palm branches in your hand are highly symbolic. All who embrace Jesus and his way of life also embrace nonviolence as the standard of their lives.
That is why palm branches are important to us! They remind us of our own story. We are committed to be among those bringing into the world a new and different reality. Our nonviolent lives are the foundation upon which peace and justice becomes possible for all people.
So I invite and urge you to open your mind and heart to the Mystery of this week. If you do so, it will, as the poet says, “catch your heart off guard and blow it open.”