Deacon Cornellís Homily


Matthew 21:1-11 (at the procession)
Isaiah 50:4-7
Philippians 2:6-11
Luke 22:14—23:56


April 5, 2020, Passion (Palm) Sunday - Cycle A

I thought I would add to the strangeness of celebrating the Eucharist without our normal assembly by reflecting on the Gospel reading we didn't hear today. On a normal Palm Sunday we would start with a blessing of the palms which would be accompanied by a reading of the story of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem; this year we would have heard Matthew's version. This is a story we only hear on Palm Sunday and then but briefly as we quickly get swept up in the Passion. This short story is actually pretty deep and we should stop and pay attention to it. So rather than leap over it and go right to the Passion, let us pause on this entry to Holy Week and take a look at this parade.

This was a parade unlike any we are likely to experience in our day; it certainly would get us all arrested if we tried it during this coronavirus social distancing. There was no media blitz, no advance publicity. There were no organizers, not social media calling people to turn out, no vendors selling Messiah dolls, no t-shirts, banners, cameras, police cordoning off the parade route, or brass bands. It was just the people. In their naive, simple religious awareness they were drawn to this Jesus, wonder worker, healer, and authoritative teacher. Steeped in the schooling of the prophets and the psalms, they instinctively knew what to do. Shout Hosanna, cut palms and wave them, throw their cloaks on the ground. They somehow recognized this Jesus as worthy of this biblical response. This was no rock star, no World Series or Super Bowl champion, not even a conquering hero back from war. They gathered to shout Blessed is he who comes, roughly dressed, riding on the back of donkey, and even that wasn't his.

Let us stop and enter into that moment, as we gather here and remotely at Eucharist to give praise and glory to God, to sing Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Let us too celebrate this entry into Jerusalem today before we lower ourselves into the suffering and death later in the week. What lessons can we learn from this outpouring of religious fervor from the heart of simple, yearning people? How obstinate we are, 2000 years later, that we still don't see that God uses the simplest, the marginalized, the unpretentious for his plan of salvation but instead we chase after the trappings of the rich, money and power, a few rolls of toilet paper. Let us, in the midst of this crisis, remember that and take comfort from knowing that God can bring the most amazing good out of what appears in our eyes as the darkest of moments.

I close by inviting you to close your eyes for a moment and listen the G. K. Chesterton's reflection on the entrance to Jerusalem from the point of view of the donkey carrying Jesus.

THE DONKEY by  G.K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked. And figs grew upon thorn, 
Some moment when the moon was blood  Then surely I was born; 

With monstrous head and sickening cry  And ears like errant wings, 
The devil's walking parody  On all four-footed things. 

The tattered outlaw of the earth,  Of ancient crooked will; 
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,  I keep my secret still. 

Fools! For I also had my hour;  One far fierce hour and sweet: 
There was a shout about my ears,  And palms before my feet. 

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