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
The 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?
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.”
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)