(Holy Week) Sunday, 9 April 2017 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the beginning of the Holy Week, the very significant and indeed holiest moment in the whole of the liturgical year, when we are commemorating and celebrating the final events in the earthly life, work and ministry of Jesus, the last week of His time when He endured all that He had to endure in order to fulfil God’s plan for our salvation to its perfection.

And it all began with the triumphal entry of Jesus into the Holy City of Jerusalem, when He was glorified and praised as a triumphant King, coming to enter His city, the city where God had made His dwelling, and He came riding on a donkey, much as the prophet Zechariah prophesied about the Messiah and King Who would come on the donkey into the city, thus fulfilling completely what God had promised His people.

And that is why we have the blessing of the palms and the procession of the palms, to commemorate that moment when the people of Jerusalem welcomed the Lord Jesus coming into the city, singing loudly and courageously, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!” They were welcoming the Messiah Who came to take up possession of His kingdom and His city, as the Heir of David, to whom God had promised that his kingdom would last forever.

Yet, we may wonder, why is it that we begin with the Gospel reading at the start of the celebration of the Holy Mass at the triumphal procession, and then suddenly, as we progress on to the readings, we then read about the Lord and Messiah Who would suffer for the sake of all people, as mentioned in the book of the prophet Isaiah, speaking about the suffering Servant of God, Who would offer Himself to be tortured and punished for our faults.

And in the second reading, in the famous passage from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians, the Apostle wrote about how Jesus had been exalted and given Name above every other names, because He has obeyed the will and the commands of His Father perfectly and completely, by taking up His cross and emptying Himself, allowing Himself to be the perfect sacrifice of love, to be the ultimate source of salvation for all of us mankind.

And we end up with the long Passion reading, when we heard one of the three accounts of the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, which for this year is taken from the Gospel of St. Matthew. We heard how the Lord Jesus spent the last day from the time of the Last Supper, to His agony in the garden of Gethsemane, to His betrayal by Judas Iscariot, to His trial before the chief priests and before Herod, and how then He was tortured and put to death by false accusations before Pontius Pilate the governor of Judea.

We heard how the Lord Jesus took up His cross, having to walk the path of suffering from Jerusalem to the hill of Calvary among two other criminals. He was condemned to death like a criminal even though He was completely innocent. People mourned for Him, while many others mocked Him, jeered Him and rejected Him, throwing insults after insults, spittle after spittle on the way, and He ascended the cross, nailed onto it at Calvary, and died for all of us.

Why is it that a people who have greeted and welcomed the Lord Jesus as King and cried out, “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!”, then within just a time span of less than one week, were also the ones who cried out, “Crucify Him!” and “We have no king but Caesar?” That is because we mankind, by our nature, are weak, brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all weak and vulnerable, easily falling into temptation.

Through falsehoods and false promises of pleasure and goodness, the devil, our great enemy, are planting in us the seeds of doubt, the seeds of evil and wickedness, and all these resulted in our lack of faith. Thus, the same people who believed in the Lord Jesus as Saviour and Master, easily turned away from Him and rejected Him, when they saw Him fallen from grace and arrested by His enemies. Those who would once call Him friends, left Him behind and abandoned Him.

Indeed, His own disciples abandoned Him when He was arrested, as they cowered in fear and were at loss on what to do. And one of His own twelve most trusted disciples betrayed Him for a mere thirty pieces of silver, tempted by the allure of money and worldly possessions. This is what had caused many of us to sin as well, to fall into darkness and wickedness.

Through this, all of us must realise that each and every one of us have sinned, be it small or great sin, but all of us have disobeyed God. At one point or more in our lives, we have walked away from our God, abandoned Him, betrayed Him and left Him behind for the pursuit of money, worldly temptations and all the false allures of the devil, which he had placed in our path to make us stumble, as what had indeed happened to all of us.

All of us have acted as the people of Jerusalem, as the disciples of Jesus, as Judas Iscariot, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. We have been like them, in how we welcome the Lord and shout His Name for joy, praising Him and glorifying Him, but then, very quickly, when temptations come, when doubt entered into our hearts, when fear and other things arose, we abandoned the Lord and left Him behind.

Let us reflect, brothers and sisters in Christ, on what had happened throughout this Holy Week, this time when Jesus our Lord did all that He had done for the sake of our salvation. We have been the ones to condemn the Lord to His death, by our sins and by our faults. Yet many of us do not realise this fact and continue to carry on with our lives as if nothing had happened. We have often taken the love of God for granted.

If all of us can just come to the realisation that each and every sin that we ever committed in life are the wounds and the sufferings of Christ, Who has suffered and died for us, then all of us would have been very ashamed and would not commit any more sins. But the reality is that many of us have been oblivious and ignorant to the sins that we have committed, and some of us have even been desensitised to sin, because we have committed so many sins, that it feels just normal for us to sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend some time today, at the beginning of the Holy Week, to reflect on how fortunate we are, to have One Who loved each and every one of us so much that He was willing to give up His own life for us, He Who was willing to forgive us our transgressions and sins. He has called us to accept His mercy and to share in the burden of His cross, if we believe in Him and what He had done for us.

The question is, are we willing to be forgiven? Are we willing to accept God’s mercy and forgiveness? Are we willing to change ourselves and sin no more? The disciples may indeed have abandoned the Lord, but they all, except Judas Iscariot, turned back to God and sought His forgiveness. Peter, who denied Jesus three times, confessed his devotion and love before the Lord three times, as a sign of his atonement and commitment to be with God. Judas did not repent and change his ways, and that was why Satan used him as a tool to try and undo the good works of Jesus by betraying Him. God gave him chance but he refused to take it up.

Shall we choose to be like Judas or to be like the other disciples of Christ? That is a question that we need to ask ourselves. Let us ponder on this as we go on throughout this Holy Week celebrations, that whatever we do, we may do it with understanding and that we may benefit from them. May all of us find our way to the salvation in our God, and share in the love and mercy with which He had rescued us from death because of our sins.

May the Lord, our loving God, Who suffered and died for us, taking our place in suffering and bearing upon Himself our crosses, bless us all and keep us all in His grace and love at all times. May we all draw closer to Him and to His love, and may we find succour and redemption by the loving sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, and accept wholeheartedly the love which He had given us all. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

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