Palm Sunday by Archbishop O’Brien

Homily by Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien

Passion Sunday 2017

Today, we begin Holy Week with the celebration of what is now officially called Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.   The Liturgy today juxtaposes Hosannas, shouts of joy, with cries of “Crucify him!”  So this liturgy serves as a gateway to Holy Week and all that it represents and celebrates.

The triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, which we commemorate in our entrance procession, anticipates the great victory of the Resurrection which we celebrate at Easter.  It reminds us that Jesus is King, the one who will triumph in the resurrection.  However, as the Passion narrative reminds us, there is a very painful road that must first be taken, one that involves excruciating physical pain, betrayal, and abandonment.

One of the questions we might want to look at is, what are we doing when we recall the death and resurrection of Christ during Holy Week?  Certainly, it is more than simply staging a pageant that recalls some long-past event.  When we remember the saving events of Christ’s life, it is much more self-involving than that.  As one author puts it, “As we go through… this week, let us look very carefully at Jesus, our Saviour.  We watch not just to admire, but also to learn, to penetrate the mind, the thinking, the attitudes and the values of Jesus, so that we, in the very different circumstances of our own lives, may walk in his footsteps.”

I think that it is important for us to recall that celebrating Holy Week involves much more than a looking back in time to the days of Jesus.  It is rather a look into these events which have power to help us and impact us now.

The key to having an overall picture of what we are celebrating this week is contained in the second reading from St. Paul to the Philippians, in which he tells us how the Son of God from all eternity became one of us, stepping down from glory to assume our human condition in the incarnation.  That Son, Jesus, obeyed the will of the Father even though this meant accepting death on the cross.  The Father then raises Jesus, God made man, to new life and glory.

Because of his death and resurrection, He, who has taken on our humanity, is able to bestow on us a share in his new and risen existence.  For those who accept him in faith, He is Lord and Saviour.  This means that, like Christ, we are being urged to strive  to be attentive to what Father wants of us and to seek to imitate Christ in his self-giving for others.

By our baptism, we are connected to the death and resurrection of Christ. This is what has made possible who we are and who we will be – people “saved by the blood of the cross and destined for eternal life”.  Each time we participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass, we are sacramentally united to Christ’s death and resurrection, which we acknowledge when we say these words, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, 0 Lord, until you come again.”

May our celebration of Holy Week lead us to an ever more authentic following of Christ, living our own sufferings in a spirit of faith and hope, and helping others to cope with the things that make their lives problematic.