Monday, April 02, 2012

Homily Palm Sunday – A Deeper Faith

palmsunday_jesuschrist37 Today marks the beginning of a rapid succession of external rituals in the life of a Catholic. We are reminded of Ash Wednesday when we received the blessed ashes on our foreheads. Today we receive palm branches and we fold them into neat little crosses. On Holy Thursday we have the foot-washing. On Good Friday we kneel and kiss the Cross. And Saturday night, the Easter Vigil, is filled with incense, chants, exclamations, water, oil, and light. All of these, even the deadening silence and emptiness of the altar on Good Friday, are rich experiences that flood our senses.

It somehow makes sense that we show up in such larger numbers to these liturgies than to the common Sunday obligation. Our Lord made us to be sensing beings and uses our senses to relate himself to us. But what will we do when Easter is over and the rest of the liturgical year marches on? What will we do when all the sensational things give way to the sobriety and noble simplicity that most often marks the Holy Mass?

Let us begin today, Palm Sunday, and continually until Easter Sunday, to re-examine our Faith. We must not forget that all of the external rituals of our faith are not ends in and of themselves. We have them to remind us of the deeper spiritual realities that they signify. Religious sentiment and feeling are good and appropriate in response to these beautiful things for they often serve as invitations to more fully enter into our faith. But our experiences of these things must not stop at the level of feelings, for feelings come and go. We must consider the underlying spiritual effect that is taking place. Deep down what we are really longing for is something greater than ourselves. We are longing to know the Lord, to shout to him “Abba, Father!”(Mk 14:36); “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord… Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:9-10)

We proclaim the same thing today that the Jews did centuries ago. The Jews of Jesus time, though, were only caught up with the spectacle of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem; they had not let Him enter into their hearts. Up to this point Jesus had been telling those he cured to remain silent. He had also been disappearing when the people would rise up to make him king. They wanted a Messiah who would rule with military might and free them from Roman occupation. But our Lord wanted to teach them that his kingdom is of heaven, not of earth, and he wishes to reign in hearts, not palaces.

This day, though, is different. He allows them to proclaim him as king to teach us to look for kingship not in one who is dominating and ambitious but in One who is humble and obedient. Therefore our Lord – who in his Divinity deserved to ride into Jerusalem upon a golden throne, with a team of chariots, on a path of fine tapestries and gold – rides instead on the poor throne of a donkey along a path of cloaks and palm braches. This he did to the shouts of “many people” (Mk 11:8), a “great crowd” (Jn 12:12): “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel” (Jn 12:13). But, then, only a few days later, this same group of Jews, riled up by the high priests, turns this acclamation into a death sentence, into a trumped-up charge of blasphemy (Navarre Bible, Mk 11:1-11). Pilate said to them, “what do you want me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted, “Crucify him” (Mk 15:12-13).

It’s easy to shout with praise and acclamation to Jesus when everyone around us is shouting too. But when the leaders of our society disperse enough ill will, are we quick to condemn him? Do I preach Christ, and Him Crucified only when I am surrounded by attentive parishioners or brother priests? When I’m out with friends or on the annual family camping trip do I praise him still or am I tempted to speak otherwise?

How can we live differently today? You and I have to make sure that our faith doesn’t stop at the externals. If we live our lives no deeper than the surface level, then we are easily swayed by those who have the loudest voice. But when we allow the external signs of our faith to take us deeper then we come to know the truth of our faith and come to know Christ for who He really is. If we allow the grace of his Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, signified by so many beautiful rituals over these coming days – when we allow that grace to penetrate deeply into our hearts, deeper than our surface feelings, then Christ can begin to mold and transform us into Catholics who are always faithful, always at His right hand, even if we are the only ones standing up for Him, even when there is “darkness… over the whole land” (Mk 15:33).

No comments: