HOMILY FOR PALM SUNDAY 2020
Palm Sunday is the last Sunday in Lent and the beginning of the most solemn week in the Christian Calendar when we commemorate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Holy Week is a sober week when we avoid swearing, quarrelling, and gossiping. It is a week of love, reconciliation, fairness, kindness and of peace. The Palm symbolises peace and victory, so the use of palms today portrays Christ as the King of peace.
Today, we are celebrating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to accomplish the mission entrusted to him by the Father. This observance is both joyous and sober. The first part of the celebration which relates to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is joyous, and the second part of the ceremony which narrates the passion of Jesus Christ is sober. Unfortunately, because of the restrictions in place to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus, you are commemorating Palm Sunday from your homes this year.
Due to the extra-ordinary circumstances in which we are living, our Archbishop Peter Comensoli has directed that the customary Palm Sunday procession be omitted today. Branches blessed today shall be left at the entrance to the Church for anyone to collect. Those who are not able to leave their homes at this moment shall be able to pick one when normalcy returns.
Jesus who is our King, Priest and Prophet had shied away from drawing attention to himself during his earthly ministry. When he healed the sick, he would ask them not to reveal his identity. Though he is God, he emptied himself and became human for our sake and being human, he lived a humble life, (Phil 2:6-7). Jesus invites us to emulate his self-emptying by getting rid of pride and arrogance in our lives. He also invites us to come to him with our joys and sorrows, for he said, “come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest, shoulder my yoke for I am lowly and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls, (Matt 11:20-30).
Just as Jesus allowed his glory to become manifest to his disciples at his Transfiguration, today, in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he allowed himself to be treated as a King. Angel Gabriel had proclaimed during the Annunciation that Jesus was to be born to take over the throne of his ancestor David and that his kingdom will have no end, (Lk 1). Jesus, consecrated by the Holy Spirit and sent by the Father, entered Jerusalem for the climax of his mission. The Father had attested that Jesus was his son in whom he was well pleased and had asked us to listen to him, (Lk 9:35). In the Gospel of John, in the lead up to his Passion, Death and Resurrection, more people came to the awareness that he was the Messiah and believed in him; and in the Gospel of Luke he turned resolutely toward Jerusalem, (Lk 9:51).
The Gospel of Matthew, (21:1-11), narrates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Even in his moment of glory, Jesus still chose the humble path. He chose to ride on a donkey which espouses humility and peace, rather than on a horse which is more magnificent and projects power, strength and war. His disciples spread their cloaks on the donkey and Jesus sat on it. Some of the crowd placed their cloaks on the road, others cut tree branches and placed them on the road. They were chanting “hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heavens!” Hosanna is a shout of praise.
Today, as we commemorate Palm Sunday, let us, despite the pain, isolation and anxiety caused by the Coronavirus, raise our branches with songs of praise to Christ our King. Let us adore and worship him with our hearts, minds and bodies. Jesus enters Jerusalem to undergo his Passion, Death and Resurrection. Through his sacrifices we have been healed and have received grace upon grace, (Jn 1:16).
May the suffering Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ lead to a cure for COVID 19. Amen.
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp