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Palm Sunday - April 14, 2019

Homilia en Español

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By Deacon Jim Hinnerschitz

       How did Jesus’ triumphant entrance to Jerusalem end this way?  He was the Son of God.  He was the savior of the world.  He could have escaped the horrible events of his Passion, up to and including crucifixion.  Why did he go like a lamb to slaughter and submit to this cruel treatment and death?  Because it was part of the Father’s plan to save humanity.  Jesus, the Son of God, took on human form and lived among us to save us.  It was out of love that he became human, suffered and died for us.

The Paschal mystery is one of the central concepts of Catholic faith relating to the history of salvation. Its main subject is the passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ – the work God the Father sent His Son to accomplish on earth. 

       Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah’s ‘servant oracle’ that we hear in today’s first reading.  He had “a well-trained tongue” that he used to teach his followers the proper way to live and to challenge the Jewish leaders with their sometimes distorted interpretations of the law.  This reading also foretold the way in which he would be mistreated and put to death.  And in the end “he set his face like flint, knowing that he shall not be put to shame.” Jesus’ human nature allows him to show remarkable inner strength which is compared to flint; an extremely hard stone.

       St Paul’s letter to the Philippians contains the famous ‘Christological Hymn’ which provides a wonderful summary of the life and redemptive work of Jesus Christ here on earth. The hymn proclaims the divine nature of Christ that pre-existed before the Incarnation.  St Paul explains that Christ lowered himself, taking on human nature.  St Paul’s choice of language and content within the hymn seems to point towards Jesus being the fullness of the Revelation made by God in the Old Testament.

       St Paul is concerned with demonstrating the humanity of Jesus Christ, along with his glorification in heaven.  He works to simultaneously portray Christ’s humanity and divinity, a truth shrouded in mystery.  This hymn in Philippians is one of the earliest texts concerning the divinity of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.  When the scripture says that “Christ emptied himself”, it means that he took the form of a servant, not that he ceased to be God.  Jesus’ divine nature, the same as that of God the Father, was unchanged throughout his whole life – even until death.
Jesus suffered for us so we would be able to have eternal life with him in heaven.  He dealt with betrayal, abandonment, lies, accusations and cruel physical treatment.  He endured more pain and suffering than many of us will ever know in our lifetime.  Why?  Because he loves us – it’s that simple.  He wanted us to see that out of darkness comes a great light.  He wanted us to learn forgiveness and mercy as he showed so many times during his short life and especially in his last hours.

       Jesus not only taught love toward one’s enemies; above all he lived it in an extraordinary way.  Jesus does not ask for vengeance as he dies on the cross, rather he asks for forgiveness for his persecutors.  In this way he does not get caught-up in the spiral of violence, instead he overcomes evil with good – forgiving his enemies, just as he taught his followers to do.

       After Jesus is crucified with criminals on either side, he asks for forgiveness for his persecutors from his Father because “they know not what they do”.  As Jesus is taunted on the cross with demands to ‘save yourself’ by the leaders of the people, then the soldiers and then one of the two criminals – the scene we should focus on is with the second criminal who asks his fellow criminal “do you not fear God”.  The second criminal recognizes his own guilt and the validity of the sentence he has been given for his crime.  Even more importantly, the second criminal recognizes that Jesus is not guilty and underserving of the sentence he has been given.  Then the second criminal says “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.  Jesus’ response (of course) is one of forgiveness – “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”.

       What does this response actually mean?  It is about forgiveness; it is about salvation.  Jesus kept silent before the taunting of the leaders, the soldiers and the first criminal.  But to the second criminal Jesus offers him salvation today.  Not one that eliminates suffering and death, but one that is accomplished through suffering and death.  In this way Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah who saves.  His way of being Christ the Savior is not accomplished by saving from suffering and death, but by saving in suffering and death.  The salvation that Jesus promises is not only a salvation for tomorrow, it already permeates today.

       In the six-week book discussion on Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody that ended a few weeks ago, a common theme throughout the book was obviously forgiveness; but more importantly it was about making amends with your past and looking forward.  Because one can’t change the past, so there is no sense dwelling on things that can’t be changed.  It is better to forgive and look forward to making positive changes in the present and future. 

A tweet that Pope Francis posted on twitter this past Thursday sums-up the sentiments from this book quite well – “From the Cross, Jesus teaches us the powerful courage of renunciation.  Because we will never go forward if we are weighed down by heavy loads.”

Jesus was able to forgive those that taunted, tortured and crucified him – he also asked his Father to forgive them.  Surely, we can find it in ourselves to forgive those who have trespassed against us, for offenses that are in many cases much less than those made against Jesus.
Jesus, help me to imitate you and respond to persecutions with your nonviolent love.  Amen.


By Deacon Tim Papa

Today, and throughout the rest of this week, we remember the passion of Christ. To a certain extent, we Catholics always try to remember it all year long, placing a crucifix prominently in the sanctuary for all to see. Some Protestant churches prefer the plain cross without an image of Christ on it at all, or prefer to add an image of the glorious risen Christ.

Our Church requires that a crucifix be present at each Mass for the same reason we take the passion narrative so seriously every Palm Sunday and Holy Week. The resurrection that we will celebrate next weekend at Easter does not have the same meaning if we do not recognize the suffering and death which preceded it. A priest on-line (Father Dohogne: made a comparison to the Iwo Jima memorial in Washington, DC – that’s the famous statue of US Marines, after the battle to capture Mount Suribachi during World War Two, raising the flag pole with a United States flag at its top. If there had not a great sacrifice made to get to the scene depicted in the statue, it would mean no more than a bunch of guys erecting a flag pole in front of new post office. It would be of interest, maybe as art, but would have no lasting significance.

The first reading today is from Isaiah, and is from the suffering servant narrative. Christians believe that Jesus is that suffering servant of whom the prophet foretold. Eternal life in the presence of the Lord is promised to those who follow the commands of God and do not fall into the easy pleasures of this world but instead act as a servant for all, regardless of the personal cost. Through his passion and death, Jesus shows us how and why we must carry our cross, just as on Easter He shows us the rewards for doing so. To disconnect the two, the means from the end, is to look at a partial picture, and to not fully understand the pascal mystery.

The second reading, the great Philippian hymn, tells us clearly that we must empty ourselves, like Christ, to be found righteous. Again we are confronted by the how and why: until we sacrifice and empty ourselves of our pride and earthly desires we will not be prepared to be filled with God’s spirit and be ready to look upon His face.

We then look upon this suffering on the cross, today and at every Mass, as we prepare to come up and receive the Eucharist. We empty ourselves and in so doing we make ourselves the temple that can receive Him fully and allow ourselves to be one with Him. As you come up to receive communion, look upon the crucifix with its depiction of His suffering. Think about Him, because as he hung there He was thinking of you and us all.

By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

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