Palm Sunday Homily (and prep for Good Friday–the Day of Sacrifice)

In my actual homily on last Sunday, I had a shortened homily, but I’ll refer to the whole message being here on this blog.    Palm Sunday is a long liturgy, and a homily should be short.  Yet I have three pages of thoughts below (9-10 minute homily), as so much can be said for this solemnity!  If you have come here, then you get it all.  

THE GRACE ROAD BEHIND JESUS— FOLLOWING IT WILL GET YOU EVERYWHERE (IN GOD’S REALM) 

THE ROAD TO JERUSALEM

untitledThe driver in her vehicle was having trouble seeing in the heavy storm and its very-low visibility.   The driver then saw what surely looked to be her neighbor Jeanne’s red corvette car ahead of her.  She thought—what good fortune!  If I can just stick close behind and follow her home—I think I can make home in this awful weather!   Following the faint tail lights ahead of her, she followed the corvette out ahead of her.   Slowly they went along, straight on, and then they made a few careful turns, and then went on straight, and then a turn, and then, all of sudden, her neighbor’s car in front of her just came to stop.   She could tell this was too soon to be home.  She began wonder what had happened, perhaps Jeanne in the car in front had hit a deer or something like that, but she began to feel uncomfortable, thinking that being stopped in the middle of the road can often times lead to accidents.   She beeped her horn.   Much to her alarm the car in front of her turned off their lights. Her concern was perhaps now turning to anger. Why was this person stopping in the middle of the road and then turning off their lights?  th2ZVIFNLN

She was then startled in a moment or two by a knocking on her window. She looked up and there was a man standing in the pouring rain wanting to speak to her. She cracked the window open and asked:  “What’s the problem up there?  And, where is Jeanne, the usual driver of this car, my neighbor?”

The man replied by stating that “he knew no Jeanne,” but the question he was going to ask her was why she had stopped where she did.  She retorted that “she was not the one , thank you, who had stopped in the middle on the road and then turned off the lights.  She was just following behind!  And now they both were in danger!”  The man’s reply was that “they were not in the road but in his driveway.”

And this driveway was not of her neighbor, nor even her neighborhood!  It wasn’t Jeanne she followed, but some other, rather perturbed fellow, who wanted him off his property now.  Now she was truly lost!   The upset driver of the Corvette went into his house and left her out there to figure out what next to do!

FROM THIS STORY we can see that the driver had chosen the wrong leader, that is, the wrong one to follow. She had followed someone who would not take to where she wanted to go. Many times in life we too are faced with storms and trials and fogginess and bad visibility on where things are going, and it can be hard to see that road ahead. It is at this time that we too need to find a leader who can guide us. We need to make sure that we are on the right road, one that will get us to where we want to go. We have to choose the right leader who is on the right road.  The Right Road is Grace Road, and the Leader is Jesus.

Where is this road?   You are on it.   This Grace Road is a pathway of following Jesus.   You need to keep your eyes are on Jesus ahead. You need to keep in communion with Him, humbly.   Much will be out there to distract you or mislead you, or you can also make a bad miscalculation, just relying on your own private judgment.

Today is Palm Sunday, which marks the day that Jesus made his entry into Jerusalem. It marks the beginning of the last week that He would spend as a man in ministry on this earth among His disciples.  One of the gospel lines about Jesus’ Entry in Jerusalem says that “Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethpage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. “And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ’The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”  IMAG0558_1

So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.  And we know what happened next….

A Gospel account says:  “And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ’Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Here is the beginning of the end for Jesus’ earthly ministry. On that road to Jerusalem, Jesus is traveling towards His death, burial and glorious resurrection. And while this Grace Road led Jesus to Jerusalem, that Jerusalem road will lead us to heaven.  That is, if we are willing to follow Jesus along that road. We must be willing to travel the road that Jesus traveled, that road to Jerusalem.        

For us in Holy Mass, we repeat the same words in song:  “Holy Holy Holy Lord… Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest.”   We are like the Bethany crowd, as they lead Jesus in to His Sacrifice (although many of them back then didn’t know it).   Yet, we know it.  We celebrate a Lord of Sacrifice here.   He goes before us to save us.

Notice clearly that, for Jesus, this way up to Jerusalem was a road of humility.  Notice how Jesus rides the donkey and colt, on the ascent into the Holy City. Scripture prophecy explains to us how this was done all in fulfillment of a foretelling of the prophet Zechariah, in how to notice the Messiah arriving in Jerusalem to save her: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ’Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”  Now normally on earth we like to see our hero enter the capital city in a conquering blaze of glory and power.  Like a Napolean or Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan.   Or, at least, if a person is important, would that they have a grand entrance!  Like a visit from the Queen today, or the Queen of Sheba of three millennia ago.

And when we think of the King of Kings and Lord of lords, Jesus, making a entry, we would think that there would be all the power, or pomp and pageantry that would be befitting for such a royal figure.   Yet as Jesus rode into town, the King of kings chose the road of humility. He did not come riding into Jerusalem on a white stallion, or marching with an army of tens of thousands, but He came on the back of the colt of a donkey. And it wasn’t even his donkey but a borrowing one at that.   An unbroken, innocent one, even!  This reflected the life of Christ which was a life of humility.  Jesus did not come into this world with wealth, but he came in poverty. He did not enter or exit it in grandeur but with meekness. He was not one who had a lot of material fortune and fame, but He possessed all grace and humility.  He came as Salvation.

When Jesus spoke of his kingdom he spoke in terms of it begin one of service and servanthood, and one of humility.  What is interesting is that on the last night that Jesus spent with His disciples, only hours before He was to die, his disciples were arguing over who would be greatest in the kingdom. Luke 22:24: “Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.” After all they had been through with Jesus, they still not get it. They simply did not understand that the road Jesus had traveled on was a road of humility, and I do say, friends of Jesus in St. Edward’s this morning, it is a road that He requires His disciples to travel on, such as us.

This 2017 Year of Grace reminds us that humility is always paired with grace.   You see it in Jesus, our model. Our leader.  We must follow and imitate our Leader.   Not the flashy red corvette leaders of the world.

I think sometimes we lose thought of this ourselves—that Jesus is Humility.  To accept Him is to ultimately accept humility of ourselves.   We love and desire the blessings of God, but do we really want to follow Jesus on this road of humility?  It’s Holy Week, and He will show us that He tests us a bit on it.  Only the penitent man shall pass into Glory.  It is the bowed man who enters the sanctuary of God.  If we walk along after Him this Grace Road, this Grace Way of Humility, then we shall learn that lesson.

Jesus did say:  “Unless you deny your very self, take up your cross, and follow Me—you cannot be My disciple.”   St. Paul teaches Jesus’ Way by saying that in Glory, every knee shall bow, every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of the Father.”    (*Passages from Mark and Philippians)

To follow Jesus means going down that road, the road of the cross. It means giving up our selfish desires, it does mean denying ourselves, and it surely means putting not only God first in our lives, but putting others first as well. Our family, our friends, even those God will tell is our neighbor to love, and perhaps loving an enemy or someone at bad odds with us.

The road of humility is the road that says I will live like Christ lived. I will strive to be conformed to His image. The Jerusalem road is a road of humility, a road that we are called to follow Jesus on.  Can you walk it?

This road we are told was also a road of fulfillment. Notice what a verse says; “All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: Tell the daughter of Zion, ’Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The fact that Jesus enters Jerusalem on a colt of a donkey is not just by change or luck. That fact that the colt was right where Jesus said it would be was not just a lucky guess on His part, but it was all part of fulfilling the divine plan of Almighty God.  This is just one of a few hundred prophecies (332 actually) that we see in the Old Testament concerning Jesus, of which He will fulfill by His life. [Examples include being betrayed by friend, Psa. 41:9, sold for 30 pieces of silver, Zech 11:12; having false witnesses accusing Him, Psa. 27:12; remaining silent when accused, Isa. 53:7, being struck and spit upon, Isa 50:6; standing and suffering in our stead, Isa. 53:4-5; having His hands and feet pierced, Ps. 22:16; being mocked and insulted Ps. 22:16-18; with His side pierced, Zech. 12:10; with soldiers casting lots for his clothes, Ps. 22:18; but not a bone broken in Him, Ps. 34:20; and being buried with the rich, Isa. 53:9. And on and on and on…]    Now– the mathematical odds of all of the 332 prophecies being fulfilled by one man is unreal. The odds are one in 84 to the 123rd power. That is 84 with 123 zeros after it. That might seem unlikely to happen, but you see, the Road to Salvation was being laid out by the Eternal Son, Spirit and Father—even along through the Hebrew covenant history—to be fulfilled when God’s Anointed came among us.

God brings to pass His mighty plan.   One might easily miss it, without the eyes of humility and the grace of faith. What it shows is that the whole life of Christ was the divine plan of an almighty God to redeem us, to save us from our sins. All that Jesus when through was for the fulfillment of the salvation of you and I.  Jesus traveled down that road of fulfillment knowing that it would lead to His death on the cross, but also knowing that He would bring salvation, eternal life with the Father in heaven for you and I.

As we pray Mass, we humbly travel life with this Lord of Revelation, while praying every time: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Hosts… Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the Highest.”  Today we even do it with palms branches in hand.   Lift them up during the “Holy Holy” today and make the connection.   We are a people not walking behind a Jesus of our own making and liking, but a Lamb of God/ Deliverer/ and Hero of Love.   We know the cost He gave, and the mistaken notions of Him even by some of those Bethany and Bethpage and Jerusalem people, that He would be what they wanted of a Savior.  Yet rather, Jesus is the Savior that we needed, and God saw that would be provided in His Son.  Hosanna to the Lamb!  Let us hail Him for Who He really is!   The world has a great need for Savior Jesus, while she won’t admit it much, yet Savior Jesus Crucified is our Grace supplied for our immense need in this fallen world. He builds a Grace Road, of humility, to become our highway to heaven.

Let us be willing to travel down that road of fulfillment with Jesus. Let us be willing to fulfill and follow the will of God for our lives.   Like Jesus said, let us say:  Not mine, O Lord, but thy will be done, in me.   Father, I take this road behind your Son as a co-road of submission: submission to Father God, obedience to the Father, a steadfast trust in the Father to be saved by His Son.   Amen.    Let us imitate Jesus Who said of His own life:  “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 3:38)

Holy Thursday then and now

Holy Thursday photo-thought

“The Ongoing Liturgy”    IMAG1176_2Merge Photo of our altar and Last Supper carving

Jesus at the Last Supper

Word carving artwork shows Him One with His own in the First Mass

Then he asks for this Mass to continue on through history…  he makes his apostles the first priests to “do this in memory of Me.”  He commissions them.

This includes the priesthood remaining all the way up to today and now with the Masses around the world, and even here at our own parish.

O God on High, bless all St. Edward’s Masses, in the coming of Your Son to us, via the Holy Spirit, Whom You send in Your Name.      We want to sup with you, now, in the Eucharist, and forever.

Come be with us, Lord.

Be our Living Bread.

From Revelations chapter 3: “To those many I love, I strongly urge you: be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. .. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear what the Spirit says to all the churches.”

Come, Let Us Worship!  

10th Station Meditation

Jesus is stripped of his garments.IMAG1091_1

Maybe here in this station we most see how Jesus humbled Himself and took on all our brokenness.  As everything is seemingly taken from Him, even clothing off his torn body,  we notice by faith that Jesus willingly GAVE it all of Himself for our salvation.  Jesus was identifying with us totally.

At the time of death, humanity had looked at our expiration as the loss of everything, now, instead, Jesus makes it a time of shedding (sin) and putting on ( eternal life).

1st Peter 2 says:  “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps….Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in turn; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him Who judges righteously.”

If Jesus could handle this 10th Station, then we can borrow from Him a capacity to bear things in Him, such as an ability for us to endure some embarrassment or persecution for the cause of righteousness and sake of Jesus’ Gospel.  .

 

 

9th Station Meditation

IMAG1090_1Jesus Falls a Third Time.

The weight of the world is so heavy on Jesus.  We had become so separated from God, by such sins as our greed and lusts and self-vanity.   The devil has tried to tempt us to look over all the world’s desires and things and take it so selfishly in, via exchange for our soul.

What a wicked deal, for he doesn’t have the world to give, but only misery and death in disguise.

“Vanity of vanities” quotes Solomon , the Hebrew king who had it all yet was left still in want , and in covetousness.   The deception of our same foe begins in plays to our vanity.   Yet can we pray with Jesus in that 23rd Psalm, ” The Lord is My Sheoherd, I shall not want…. in fact, a table of plenty is set for the believers’ feast, even in full sight of the foe (or our enemies)… and I shall dwell in the House of The Lord!”

8th Station Meditation

The Next Station of The Cross.  Jesus meets women and children on The Way.  As Jesus makes His Way out of Jerusalem city, there at its gates are these sorrowful folks.   

Soon it will be a small crowd only at the ghastly place of the skull, Golgotha.  He will feel nearly alone.   His sense of abandonment will be strong, causing Jesus to pray His memorized Psalms. Psalm 22:  Why have you abandoned Me?  Psalm 23:  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for THOU art with  Me…  and ahead I shall dwell in the House of the Lord for all years/ages to come.    Psalm 89: I have set a covenant with My chosen, given thy servant Thy Word… age to age– God’s faithfulness.

IMAG1089_1

MID WAY in the STATIONS: Blood of Jesus, save us

Midway Meditation:  Blood of Jesus, save us.   A Pause in the Station Meditations.

A book called “Jesus Now” highlights 20 things (which the author names) that the Blood of Christ “does” (as in a present experience to the believer).

What the Blood of Christ Does

1.  It remits sins (Matt. 26:28).     2.  It gives life to those who consume it (John 6:53).   3.   It causes us to dwell in Christ and He in us (John 6:56).   4.  It is the means by which Jesus purchased the church (Acts 20:28).   5.  It is the means by which Jesus becomes our atonement through faith (Rom. 3:25).   6.  It justifies us and saves us from wrath (Rom. 5:9).   7.  It redeems us (Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Rev. 5:9).    8.  It brings those who were far away from God near to Him (Eph. 2:13).   9.  It grants us the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14).   10. It brings us peace and reconciliation to God (Col. 1:20). 11.  It has obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb. 9:12).   12.  It cleanses our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14).   13.  It is the means by which we enter the most holy place with boldness (Heb. 10:19).   14.  It speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24).   15.  It sanctifies us (Heb. 13:12). 16.  It makes us complete for every good work (Heb. 13:20-21).   17.  It cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).   18.  It bears witness in the earth along with the Spirit and the water (1 John 5:8).   19.  It is the means by which Jesus washes us (Rev. 1:5; 7:14).   20.  It is the means by which we overcome the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:11).

 

What a list!  

Therefore, let us thank God for the “precious” blood of Christ . . . the “sprinkled” blood of Christ . . . the blood of “the new covenant” . . . the blood of “the eternal covenant” (1 Pet. 1:19; Heb. 12:24; Luke 22:20; Heb. 13:20).  For there is “life in the blood” (Lev. 17:11).  “This is My Blood, of the New Covenant, which will be poured out for the many, for forgiveness of sins.” (Mt. 26, and consecrating text of Eucharistic Prayer at any Catholic Mass). Every Mass Jesus brings this Blood to us via Sacrament.   The image in the church of Jesus on The Cross is purposefully there for a sober reminder.  It calls attention to the altar below it, where the Real Presence comes, in Jesus ‘ Body and Blood.

7th Station Meditation

Jesus falls the Second Time.IMAG1088_1

We are reminded from the meditation of the First Fall of Christ, that three common falls into sin have plagued humankind. They are Living in the Pride of Flesh,   Lusting for Power and Control, and Being Greedy and Utterly Selfish.

Those three major mortal sins have been committed so very heavily through time by humankind versus God.  Pondering the immensity of it, one might sense how all these sins then WEIGHED on Jesus.

In tempting us to power or control, the devil takes us to a pinnacle and dares us to prove God is good, by our leaping off into the oblivion of some disguised rejection of God, (that ours, really, belong power and control).   Rather, in not being so foolish, the believers opts for acting in wisdom and prudence and love and self- control.  We would rather ‘leap’ into the love of God by our trusting heart; we need no cliffs nor dares.  God already is trustworthy as He has always been.   Jesus shows us this Trust, as He presses on.

The Son of Man who was once tempted in the wilderness has prevailed to trust the Father in all things.  Right to the finish. That’s the path we shall follow, as we go the Way of Jesus.

Below on the road, spills some more of the Precious Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus. Much has poured out already, at the bead droplets in the Garden of Gethsename prayer time, then gushing out at the flogging courtyard, again at the prison dungeon (of His thorny crowning) and now along this Way, and finally ahead at Golgotha. At this mid-way point, we praise God in the value of Jesus’ Blood.

6th Station Meditation

Veronica wipes the Holy Face of Jesus.   While not a specific Scriptural account, it is in the spirit of Luke’s Good News that revealed how it was mostly women disciples who were the most brave and steadfast in witness to the Suffering and Sorrowful Jesus in Passion and Crucifixion.  There likely would have been a Veronica on the Via Delorosa.   The story of the picture on a cloth and/or the photo- like image on Jesus ‘ shroud have fascinated people for ages.  The attraction is to connect to the Crucified Jesus in some way.  How can WE love the Passion of Christ?  That’s the point here in the Sixth Station.

IMAG1087_1

Perhaps the answer is right before us here:  to love another deeply in a holy way.

One simple but deeply loving and courageous act of Veronica is this sixth devotion on The Way.   God bless all Veronicas in this world.

How often is it that an extra-special outreach to someone is what is remembered by them for a lifetime?!

I recall a roadway , flat-tire incident that trapped my father’s hand under our car. Dad was driving all of us to our new house; in a long trip through a snow storm. All of a sudden came a tire blow- out under our fully loaded auto. Trying to change the tire, the car slipped and the car tire landed on his hand, trapping dad.  It occurred during a winter’s blizzard on a New York State Thruway, with our family now in desperate need.  Out on the roadway, and being a youngster, I tried to flag down a passing motorist to help get the car lifted off of dad’s broken hand. Some men in a car stopped and rescued us.  They were from a Catholic seminary. What an obvious God-send and blessed relief to the situation!.  Their help required a few hours of assistance to our family. But they did so.  They are my Veronica story. They offered relief in a crucial moment for the Barry family.  Do you such a story, too?

Another aspect of the story is the reason Veronica helped.  She came to console the Holy Face.

So can we– seek the Face of the Lord and you shall live– says The Scriptures.

And do it with holy, deep living– as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

 

5th Station of the Cross Meditation

IMAG1086_1

This station is of Simon of Cyrene assisting Jesus in carrying the Cross.

If we look at our own lives, we are likely to find people who have helped us to accomplish our tasks, who were there for us, in one way or another.  Some have even been real bridges for us to help go from one stage of life up to another.

Simon, a bystander on the roadside, in Jerusalem city from as far away as a Mediterranean island, meant a lot of help to Jesus.   Jesus needed some strength to borrow to make it to Calvary’s hill, with His Cross..  Simon gave Him that help.

Jesus would have been grateful.

Even though Simon was drafted into it forcefully by the soldiers.

Simon was in the right place probably because he came in close with concern to see why the soldiers were tormenting a man.  Next thing– he’s carrying the poor man’s Cross.

He would have an impact in the Calvary story.  He likely converted to become a follower of Jesus, especially in how the Risen accounts of Jesus identified this Man of Sorrows to him.

Somehow our own lives can be useful to God, even when.the Lord seems removed from our focus.   He calls us into His service, anyway.   The Lord wants to engage us.

Peace

 

4th Station Meditation

IMAG1085_1.                        Jesus meets His sorrowful mother.

Mary alone understood Jesus and the plan of God in Him and the meaning of His suffering.  She was heart-to-heart with Jesus, walking in holiness and trust in the Heavenly Father.  The Cross and the Rising in her Son she saw coming.   This, in the final days of ministry, she tried to be nearby Jesus for whenever He might need her.

Here she was on His way to Golgotha, to console Him.  And Jesus knew that she could understand and comprehend what was unfolding and its holy reason.  And she gave Him a nod.

Of course she was crying and in much distress, too.  Still, there was a confidence about her about the big picture.  She is Our Lady of Wisdom.

The eventual suffering of her Son Jesus was known to her, just as her own pain to come by it was pre-told her way back at the Temple presentation of her Babe Jesus.  Simon prophesied her sword in the heart feeling over Jesus sacrifice.  It now could be felt.

She would follow to the foot of the Cross, then even onto His entombment, and then awaited the 3rd day in quietude.

If we are to have any good idea of Calvary’s story, then it’s incomplete without Mary’s part.   For that realization, Jesus gave us His mother from The Cross.    

“Behold your mother” is an amazing final word and gift from Jesus in Good Friday.  This station brings Mary fittingly into our Via Dolorosa.