HOMILY OF BISHOP STEVEN J RAICA
PALM SUNDAY - MARCH 20, 2016
This Palm – Passion – Sunday turns our attention to the drama of the Passion of our Lord. For us there can be no other reason than to take what we have been preparing for during these past few weeks and see the high point of these events on Calvary with the crucifixion and ignominious death of our Savior.
It wasn’t long ago, that we gathered here on Christmas to welcome the birth of Christ – our Emmanuel – our “God-with-us”. He was one of us!
His public ministry was marked by intensity. He called people to Himself and invited them: “Follow me!” We hear about the wonders He worked: Someone who was able to satisfy the thirst and longing that we have; Someone through whom we recognize our own blindness and now are able to see again; Someone who could even raise the dead to life as he did with Lazarus. “Everyone is looking for you” they exclaimed. “No one has ever spoken like this man,” related the law enforcement officer to his boss explaining why he didn’t take him into custody. People were amazed at the multiplication of the couple of loaves and a few paltry fish from a young lad.
Now, those following Him were bewildering the authorities who were just trying to keep calm and keep the peace among people. With Him, some were now living a new way, they saw in Him the answer to their profound questions. And, with these events, He is hailed by one crowd and condemned by another.
We also know that He was faithful to the will of his Father in heaven. The Father and I are one. If you see me, you see the Father.
At the very heart of it all was a rejection of relationship – a repudiation of a chance to see something great in life. It was that the crowd was more comfortable with the status quo than by the possibility of what we were truly created to become. Yet, He used those circumstances to create for us yet another opportunity to see how much we are loved! We are loved because there is Someone who is so concerned about our ultimate destiny that He seeks us out and says, “I am the way!” “Follow me!”
We live in the shadow of that affirmation. Unlike those in the Gospel passage, who didn’t quite know the end of the story, we do. In fact, one of their number saw Him alive – as we will affirm on Easter. Yes! His death was not an end, but a transition to what is in store for those who believe. Today, through the faithfulness of Christians, we see Jesus alive today in our world – inviting each of us, “Follow me!” Though the crowd condemned Jesus, He did not condemn us. The Anointed One came to redeem us. That is our hope as well! Because he is present in all believers, who have “put on Christ” in our baptisms, we can see the “face of mercy”, the face of Jesus Christ today. It is not just as a some kind of a nice thought or the odor of some kind of cologne or spray, but His face, truly present in our reality.
This week is a sort of Retreat for us Christians – beginning today. Holy Week is solemn in its own nature – with some rather beautiful and evocative ceremonies that bring us in contact with the Mystery that shapes us as a people linked together in Christ. There are the events of the Chrism Mass this Tuesday; the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with Washing of Feet on Holy Thursday; the reading of the Passion of our Lord and the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday; the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection at the Solemn Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday’s glorious celebrations. We will walk with the Lord and follow him each step of the way. Can we not do it together?
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