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Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Homily - Palm Sunday (Year C)


The Gospel According to Luke – Luke 19:28-40 ©
First Reading – Isaiah 50:4-7 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 21(22):8-9,17-20,23-24 ©
Second Reading – Philippians 2:6-11 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Philippians 2:8-9
The Gospel According to Luke – 22:14-23:56 ©


We must always read the sacred text with care.

The gospel reading from Saint Luke that leads off the Palm Sunday worship should be taken with a grain of salt, by which I mean it should not be taken seriously at all.

Any passage from the sacred text which was explicitly written to show Jesus as the fulfilling a prediction made by an earlier prophet represents a deviation from the truth; either because it is a deliberate falsehood, or because it is a gross misunderstanding of the events being narrated.

Neither case is acceptable for Christians who are committed to serving the truth.

Prophets are not seers. Their role among the people was not to foretell the future, or sift through auguries and portents. The prophets were critics of the injustices the witnessed in the social order, of injustice anywhere they saw it.

Take the reading for today, all four of the Gospels narrate the same scene, but differently as is so often the case.

Mark and Luke depict Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt, while John depicts Jesus riding on a colt that is the foal of a donkey (John is the most in keeping with Zechariah’s “prophesy”). Matthew cover the bases and depicts Jesus riding on both a donkey and a colt, in Matthews version Jesus rides two animals.

The authors of these gospels got themselves twisted up trying to change the actual narrative of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, so that it appears to be reflective of  a divine plan that was in the works for ages, coming to fruition in that moment, in Jesus.

The liberty they took in writing the narrative this way is evidence of their lack of faith. Whenever the authors embellish a story to lend it more authority the evidence actually suggests that they are writing from a place weakness.

This is always unnecessary.

More likely than not, no such event even took place.

The motive to write the narrative this way, was misdirected from the start, because the purpose was only to establish the royal bona fides of Jesus, and in truth Jesus was not a king. He had no desire to be one. He denied until the end.

God is not a king either, or an emperor or any such pretentious thing.

Kings are human inventions, and they never serve the ends which the people need most.

Jesus stood in the tradition of the prophet Isaiah. Listen to Isaiah now, take comfort in his courage. He is pointing to the way.

Like Jesus, Isaiah sees the necessity of telling the truth. The people need it, and justice cannot be had without it.

Truth is the cornerstone of a just society.

But the reward for telling the truth is often condemnation. The people do not like to hear it, do not want to believe that God loves their neighbor just as much as God loves them, or the stranger, or their enemies.

This is exactly what the way teaches.

The poor and rich alike, they do not want to share. People are afraid, the world has made them this way. They will react with anger and violence to any little thing that comes along to upset their resentment filled lives, to challenge their jealousies and their miserliness.

This is how the world is.

Like Isaiah, you must open your ear, and listen. You must listen with you heart.

Open your mouth to share the peace and blessing of God, and never to condemn.

Most important of all, do not fear. This is the way of heaven

Do not for a second believe that God does not hear you when you pray.
The creator of the Universe knows your innermost thoughts. God knows you as you know yourself, God understands all that you are and all the things you struggle with. God feels your experience of the world, even as you feel it.
Your struggles are God’s own.
God has given you the power to save yourself or to choose surrender. To agonize or be at peace, but God will not rescue you.

Your life is your own.

God will never intervene on your behalf, god would not even spare Jesus, and this is not because Jesus was God.

It was a mistake for the Apostle to use the power of the pen in order to transform Jesus into a divine being.

Jesus was a man. Jesus shared all of the qualities of humanity with us, He shared our humanity because he was one of us.

He did not descend from another place.

He rose up.

In this way Jesus was divine, as we are all divine. Jesus, like all of us are created in the divine image, he carried a spark of that divinity within him, even as we all do.

Jesus is our brother. God, the creator of the universe, is parent to us all.

Jesus is not a lord, he did not want to be thought of as one, and God is not King.

God does not seek, nor desire glory, neither should we.

God calls us to lead lives of humility, this is the way, to accept with grace our role as teachers of the faith. To seek justice and to love mercy all of our days.

Be mindful!

Listen to each turn of the story today.

Jesus represents God, a loving friend who is prepared to give everything in the service of those God cares for.

Jesus is the exemplar of the way.

God is so close to the people, so near to us, you can see God at the dining table with you, just as Jesus saw God in the hearts of his companions, and they in him.

Do not be mistaken. God loves mercy more than sacrifices of flesh and blood, animal sacrifices which God has no desire for at all.

The bread and the wine which Jesus served at the last supper were not substitutions for animal sacrifice, and neither is Jesus.

Be mindful of this at all times.

Listen.

Even Judas was beloved by God.

Remember.

There is no such thing as fate. What Jesus and Judas, and Peter, and Pilate did they did freely.

Now pay attention to the squabbling of the disciples, even in their last hours with Jesus they had not absorbed his teaching. They were still prideful and preening, resentful and demanding.

Even Jesus could not dissuade them from this, and he loved them anyway.

The way is instructive for this. Follow Jesus with a heart prepared for service, then you will be in the way.

Even though the disciples have failed time and time again to understand what Jesus is teaching, who he is or where his mission would end, he loves them anyway. Even in light of their failures he has invited them to the table.

This is the way.

What Jesus tells Saint Peter is instructive for all the faithful. Jesus teaches that each of us will be sifted like wheat, until the chaff has pulled away. He teaches in this final lesson that God prays for us, and in the end each of us will be saved.

What he said to Peter he said to us all.

Even as Jesus gave these assurances to Peter, Peter was boasting of how great his faith was and how ready he is to face the same tribulations as Christ.

Jesus knew otherwise. He knew that Peter would betray him, just as Judas had done.

Jesus reminds them all of the way they should approach their mission after he has gone, that they should approach it with humility.

Be mindful, and be cautious when the scripture turns to the fulfillment of prophecy. God made each of us, and the whole of creation free. There is nothing predetermined.

When Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives, he himself is uncertain and afraid, so much so that he was even ready to use violence to protect himself and his friends.

He succumbed to the temptation to prepare for it.

He calls the disciples to arms before he withdraws in prayer.

Jesus sees what is coming, not because the future was immutable, but because human nature was scrutable.

Jesus finds comfort in prayer, the certainty of his faith speaks as clearly as if it were the messenger of God, and he is strengthened by it.

When he is rested he calls the disciples to the same practice, assuring them that they will find the same comfort in prayer, if they meditate on the way.

Just as Jesus was calling them, he was interrupted by the gang of men, led by one of his disciples, who had come to arrest him.

There was uncertainty among his followers, and as Jesus had previously instructed them they were prepared for violence. But Jesus had passed that moment of doubt, he was ready to surrender, though one of the disciples struck out anyway, striking before Jesus could gain command of the situation and announce his intention to submit to the authority.

Before he left with them Jesus healed the wounded man, just as we can expect God to heal any one of us sinners.

Jesus is prepared to forgive his opponents, this is what the way instructs us to do, but this does not mean that they do not deserve admonishment for their fecklessness and cowardice.

Jesus scolds them and they arrest him. Peter follows them, but when he is confronted he denies being a follower of Jesus. Within an hour he denies Jesus three times, proving Jesus right about Peters previous boasting

It was all vanity.

What follows is the worst display of human nature, all of our fear and pettiness rolled into one tragic and unnecessary drama that ended with the murder of a great and good person.

Jesus is mocked and beaten by cruel and callous men. He is dragged before the jealous to answer for their ignorance.

When they were satisfied that he had implicated himself in a crime, they were still afraid to prosecute him themselves, because Jesus was a man of the people, and they loved him.

So they took him to the Romans to get their satisfaction.

The Romans were also afraid. Pilate the Procurator wanted nothing to do with the plots that the Jewish elders, chief priests and scribes had with another. It even suited his interests to keep them off balance and uncertain.

Pilate returned him to Herod, the Jewish king. 

Herod made sport of Jesus and came to terms with Pilate in a way that allowed Pilate to deal with Jesus, eliminating the problem that Jesus’ teaching represented for all of them.

This demonstrated for everyone the craven nature of human greed, because it was greed that drove them all, and their fear that they could lose the things they had, and the positions they held if they were to allow a popular man like Jesus to gain influence and power.

Pilate played politics with the matter, and publicly called on the Jewish elders to demand the death of Jesus. In their eagerness they fell for it, and though Pilate ordered the killing, it was clear to everyone that he was acting at the behest of the ruling class of Judeans

Pilate declared that Jesus was innocent of any crime but then bowed to the will of the crowd and condemned him to death, substituting Jesus for another condemned man. He let the murderer Bar Abbas go, and sent Jesus to death in his place.

Jesus was very week by this time. He had undergone hours of beatings, torture and abuse.

He mourned his fate even while giving hope to the people who had gathered to support him. He never failed to encourage them to carry on.

When Jesus had been nailed to the cross and lifted up to die, he prayed one last time for the people of Earth, for all the children of the God “Forgive them,” he says to God, “they know not what they do.”

This is the way.

During the agony of the crucifixion, while he died slowly on the cross, he was mocked and robbed and humiliated, during that time Jesus never lost his composure.

The way had prepared him for this.

Jesus finds companionship and common cause among the men he was crucified with.  Both faith and doubt were on full display on Calvary that day.

Be mindful!

As you finish the reading for today do not to fall into the seductive belief that supernatural events attended Jesus’ death.

There was no eclipse when he was crucified.

There was only a darkness of heart and spirit the moment when Jesus died.

Those who witnessed his death, even though they were not among his followers, or believers in any way, they acknowledged the passing of a good man, even the Roman centurion said as much.

Joseph of Arimathea recovered his body for burial.

He was followed to the tomb by the women who were among his disciples. They were the final witnesses to his death and burial. They never abandoned him or left his side.

In this way a man passed from the world, who would come to be called the son of God, he was a humble prophet, a healer and a teacher of the way.


The Gospel According to Luke – Luke 19:28-40 ©

Blessings on Him Who Comes in the Name of the Lord.

Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here.

If any one asks you, “Why are you untying it?” you shall say this, “The Lord has need of it.”’

So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them.

And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’

And they said, ‘The Lord has need of it.’

And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it.

And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road.

As he was drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!

Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’

And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’

He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’


First Reading – Isaiah 50:4-7 ©

I did not cover my face against insult: I know I shall not be shamed

The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue.

So that I may know how to reply to the wearied he provides me with speech.

Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple.

The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away.

I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults.

So, too, I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed.


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 21(22):8-9,17-20,23-24 ©

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

All who see me deride me.
  They curl their lips, they toss their heads.
‘He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
  let him release him if this is his friend.’

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Many dogs have surrounded me,
  a band of the wicked beset me.
They tear holes in my hands and my feet
  I can count every one of my bones.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

They divide my clothing among them.
  They cast lots for my robe.
O Lord, do not leave me alone,
  my strength, make haste to help me!

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

I will tell of your name to my brethren
  and praise you where they are assembled.
‘You who fear the Lord give him praise;
  all sons of Jacob, give him glory.
  Revere him, Israel’s sons.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?


Second Reading – Philippians 2:6-11 ©

Christ Humbled Himself but God Raised Him High

His state was divine, yet Christ Jesus did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.

But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


Gospel Acclamation – Philippians 2:8-9

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!

Christ was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.
But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all names.

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!


The Gospel According to Luke – 22:14-23:56 ©

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Luke

Key: N. Narrator. Jesus. O. Other single speaker. C. Crowd, or more than one speaker.

N. When the hour came, Jesus took his place at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them,

I have longed to eat this passover with you before I suffer; because, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

N. Then, taking a cup, he gave thanks and said,

Take this and share it among you, because from now on, I tell you, I shall not drink wine until the kingdom of God comes.

N. Then he took some bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it and gave it to them, saying,

This is my body which will be given for you; do this as a memorial of me.

N. He did the same with the cup after supper, and said,

This cup is the new covenant in my blood which will be poured out for you.

And yet, here with me on the table is the hand of the man who betrays me. The Son of Man does indeed go to his fate even as it has been decreed, but alas for that man by whom he is betrayed!

N. And they began to ask one another which of them it could be who was to do this thing.

A dispute arose also between them about which should be reckoned the greatest, but he said to them,

Among pagans it is the kings who lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are given the title Benefactor. This must not happen with you. No; the greatest among you must behave as if he were the youngest, the leader as if he were the one who serves. For who is the greater: the one at table or the one who serves? The one at table, surely? Yet here am I among you as one who serves!

You are the men who have stood by me faithfully in my trials; and now I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father conferred one on me: you will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.

Simon, Simon! Satan, you must know, has got his wish to sift you all like wheat; but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers.

N. He answered,

O. Lord, I would be ready to go to prison with you, and to death.

N. Jesus replied,

I tell you, Peter, by the time the cock crows today you will have denied three times that you know me.

N. He said to them,


When I sent you out without purse or haversack or sandals, were you short of anything?

N. They answered,

C. No.

N. He said to them,

But now if you have a purse, take it; if you have a haversack, do the same; if you have no sword, sell your cloak and buy one, because I tell you these words of scripture have to be fulfilled in me: He let himself be taken for a criminal. Yes, what scripture says about me is even now reaching its fulfilment.

N. They said,

C. Lord, there are two swords here now.

N. He said to them,

That is enough!

N. He then left to make his way as usual to the Mount of Olives, with the disciples following. When they reached the place he said to them,

Pray not to be put to the test.

N. Then he withdrew from them, about a stone’s throw away, and knelt down and prayed, saying,

Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine.

N. Then an angel appeared to him, coming from heaven to give him strength. In his anguish he prayed even more earnestly, and his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

When he rose from prayer he went to the disciples and found them sleeping for sheer grief. He said to them,

Why are you asleep? Get up and pray not to be put to the test.

N. He was still speaking when a number of men appeared, and at the head of them the man called Judas, one of the Twelve, who went up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said,

Judas, are you betraying the son of Man with a kiss?

N. His followers, seeing what was happening, said,

C. Lord, shall we use our swords?

N. And one of them struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. But at this Jesus spoke:

Leave off! That will do!

N. And touching the man’s ear he healed him.

Then Jesus spoke to the chief priests and captains of the Temple guard and elders who had come for him. He said,

Am I a brigand, that you had to set out with swords and clubs? When I was among you in the Temple day after day you never moved to lay hands on me. But this is your hour; this is the reign of darkness.

N. They seized him then and led him away, and they took him to the high priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance. They had lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and Peter sat down among them, and as he was sitting there by the blaze a servant-girl saw him, peered at him, and said,

O. This person was with him too.

N. But he denied it.

O. Woman, I do not know him.

N. Shortly afterwards someone else saw him and said,

O. You are another of them.

N. But Peter replied,

O. I am not, my friend.

N. About an hour later another man insisted, saying,

O. This fellow was certainly with him. Why, he is a Galilean.

N. Peter said,

O. My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.

N. At that instant, while he was still speaking, the cock crew, and the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered what the Lord had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will have disowned me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Meanwhile the men who guarded Jesus were mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying,

C. Play the prophet. Who hit you then?

N. And they continued heaping insults on him.

When day broke there was a meeting of the elders of the people, attended by the chief priests and scribes. He was brought before their council, and they said to him,

C. If you are the Christ, tell us.

N. He replied,

If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Power of God.

N. Then they all said,

C. So you are the Son of God then?

N. He answered:

It is you who say I am.

N. They said,

C. What need of witnesses have we now? We have heard it for ourselves from his own lips.

N. The whole assembly then rose, and they brought him before Pilate.

They began their accusation by saying,

C. We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of the tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king.

N. Pilate put to him this question:

O. Are you the king of the Jews?

N. He replied,

It is you who say it.

N. Pilate then said to the chief priests and the crowd,

O. I find no case against this man.

N. But they persisted,

C. He is inflaming the people with his teaching all over Judaea; it has come all the way from Galilee, where he started, down to here.

N. When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man were a Galilean; and finding that he came under Herod’s jurisdiction he passed him over to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been wanting for a long time to set eyes on him; moreover, he was hoping to see some miracle worked by him. So he questioned him at some length; but without getting any reply. Meanwhile the chief priests and the scribes were there, violently pressing their accusations. Then Herod, together with his guards, treated him with contempt and made fun of him; he put a rich cloak on him and sent him back to Pilate. And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day.

Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leading men and the people. He said,

O. You brought this man before me as a political agitator. Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no case against the man in respect of all the charges you bring against him. Nor has Herod either, since he has sent him back to us. As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death, So I shall have him flogged and then let him go.

N. But as one man they howled,

C. Away with him! Give us Barabbas!

N. (This man had been thrown into prison for causing a riot in the city and for murder.)

Pilate was anxious to set Jesus free and addressed them again, but they shouted back,

C. Crucify him! Crucify him!

N. And for the third time he spoke to them,

O. Why? What harm has this man done? I have found no case against him that deserves death, so I shall have him punished and then let him go.

N. But they kept on shouting at the top of their voices, demanding that he should be crucified. And their shouts were growing louder.

Pilate then gave his verdict: their demand was to be granted. He released the man they asked for, who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.

As they were leading him away they seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind Jesus. Large numbers of people followed him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented for him. But Jesus turned to them and said,

Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children. For the days will surely come when people will say, ‘Happy are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne, the breasts that have never suckled!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’; to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if men use the green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry?

N. Now with him they were also leading out two other criminals to be executed.

When they reached the place called The Skull, they crucified him there and the two criminals also, one on the right, the other on the left. Jesus said,

Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.

N. Then they cast lots to share out his clothing.

The people stayed there watching him. As for the leaders, they jeered at him, saying,

C. He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.

N. The soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer vinegar they said,

C. If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.

N. Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals hanging there abused him, saying,

O. Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well.

N. But the other spoke up and rebuked him:

O. Have you no fear of God at all? You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

N. He replied,

Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.

N. It was now about the sixth hour and, with the sun eclipsed, a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Temple was torn right down the middle; and when Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he said,

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

N. With these words he breathed his last.

All kneel and pause a moment

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he gave praise to God and said,

O. This was a great and good man.

N. And when all the people who had gathered for the spectacle saw what had happened, they went home beating their breasts.

All his friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied him from Galilee, and they saw all this happen.

Then a member of the council arrived, an upright and virtuous man named Joseph. He had not consented to what the others had planned and carried out. He came from Arimathaea, a Jewish town, and he lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He then took it down, wrapped it in a shroud and put him in a tomb which was hewn in stone in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day and the sabbath was imminent.

Meanwhile the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus were following behind. They took note of the tomb and of the position of the body.

Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. And on the sabbath day they rested, as the Law required.

Palm Sunday – Holy Week (Year C)

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