Deacon Cornellís Homily

Readings:

Mark 11:1-10 (procession)
Is 50:4-7
Phil 2:6-11
Mk 14:1-15:47

Date: March 27-28, 2021, Palm Sunday of the Passion of Christ, Cycle B

Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

There is such a temptation, at least for me, on Palm Sunday to rush right through the entrance into Jerusalem and get right into the Passion. And then rush through the Passion to get to Easter and resurrection, putting all the pain and the struggle behind us. Even today's liturgy seems to rushing us along, moving so quickly from the reading of the story of Jesus' triumphant entry into to Jerusalem into the Passion, with no time to reflect on his entry. But there is a reason that the Church starts Holy Week with this story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on the back of donkey.

So let's pause for a moment and go back to that scene. Even at the most superficial level Jesus' triumphant entry procession is full of contradictions. The very act of riding into a capital city like Jerusalem is typically done by a victorious general returning from battle, or by a king entering majestically into the seat of his throne. Think of every other scene of this kind of triumphant entry procession that you have even seen. The general or the king is mounted on his magnificent horse, often in full battle armor, or in the case of a king, in the splendor of royal attire. He brandishes a sword or spear or scepter as a symbol of his power. And he is surrounded by soldiers or servants and accompanied by the spoils of the battle, maybe even prisoners in chains.

And here we have this picture of Jesus. Riding on an ass, the foal of a donkey; not even close to being a symbol of might or majesty. And the donkey is not even his own; he had to borrow one for the occasion. He has no sword, or scepter. His symbol of power is just himself, filled with the Spirit and moving steadfastly towards completing his Father's will whereever it takes him,. Only at the deepest symbolic level is he surrounded by the spoils of his battles - the ordinary people he cured, or the outcasts that he had lifted up, the possessed that he had freed.

And even the disciples and the crowds gathered for the Jewish celebration of Passover don't see these contradictions. At. least Peter is still carrying a sword as we heard in the reading of the Passion. They all still are holding out hope that somehow, Jesus will turn out to be the military power that will overcome the Romans with force and drive them from the land to restore David's kingdom.

Even though many of them would have been familiar with the prophesy in Zechariah:

Behold: your king is coming to you,
    a just savior is he,
Humble, and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

they still are holding out for victory by might, for salvation by military power. But Jesus is coming to conquer, not by might or power, but by emptying himself. He will conquer by showing us how far God will go to let us know that He loves us. He will conquer not us, not the Romans, but death, and not just for him but for all of us, drawing us into a share in his eternal life.

Seeing this scene for what it really is, how do we follow Jesus into our celebration of Holy Week. Do I give myself over completely to the Father's will as Jesus did? Do I enter fully into each of the moments of celebration as they happen and not just push through them in anticipation of the celebration of Easter? Will I accept Jesus' example of serving others, how ever menially it might be; will I see in any sufferings I may encounter an opportunity to learn forgiveness, to deepen my trust in God's plan, in God's timing? Will I allow myself to be drawn completely into the silence on Holy Saturday, as all the world holds its breath because the King is asleep in the earth? I pray that we all do.

Hosanna! Blessed are we when we come in the name of, and in imitation of the Lord.

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