Open your heart to welcome LOVE

Homily for April 9, 2017 (Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion)
Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2:61-11; Matthew 21:1-11; 26:14-2:66

Today we begin the most solemn and intense week of the Church year.  Holy Week and the Easter Triduum are filled with special readings, words and rituals.  Today is the only day that we have two gospel readings, and we are given palms to commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entry into the Jerusalem.  We also read a Passion Narrative from Matthew, one of the synoptic gospels that will remind us that the trip to Jerusalem ultimately leads to the cross.

On Holy Thursday, we will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  We will hear the proclamation of John 13:1-20.  Like the other gospels, it will recall the Last Supper that Jesus celebrated with his disciples the night before he died.  Unlike the other gospels, there will be no mention of bread and wine.  The focus of the story is on something quite different:  Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and he admonishes them to follow his example. 

Then, shortly after reading that gospel, we will have our own Washing of the Feet.  It’s important to note, however, that like our celebration of the Eucharist itself, this is not a mere reenactment of a past event.  It is instead a ritual and symbolic reminder of what the Lord calls us to do in some way every day!

On Good Friday, we will again read a Passion Narrative—this time from John’s Gospel—and we will be invited to venerate the cross in recognition of Jesus’ sacrifice and as a sign of our own commitment to embrace our own crosses and follow in the Lord’s footsteps as his disciples.  

At the Easter Vigil we will hear more from the Bible than we do at any of the Church’s liturgies during the year.  These added scripture readings will give us a broad sweep of salvation history, beginning from the dawn of creation to the Resurrection of the Lord.  In addition, many churches throughout the world will celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation—Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist—welcoming new members into the Body of Christ.  Easter Sunday will complete the week and begin a season leading up to our celebration of Pentecost and a reminder that the Holy Spirit remains with and in us.

This is a time of many words and rituals, and if we are truly attentive to them they will speak far more eloquently and powerfully to us than any homily ever could.  So as a homilist, I hope that you don’t mind if I step back a bit. 

I also hope that you will open your heart to welcome the great LOVE that is at the center of our celebrations.  It was LOVE that brought Jesus to the Jerusalem, that inspired him to leave us the Eucharist, that strengthened him to accept the cross, and that drew him from the tomb in the resurrection.  It is that same LOVE that draws us to him, to one another and to our world. +