Sunday Sermon for April 10, 2022, Palm Sunday, Year C
Readings: Lk 19:28-40; Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; k 22:14-23:56
Palm Sunday is always wonderful for displaying human nature both in its excellence and in its brokenness. The brokenness is shown clearly and in so many ways. For instance, we have the crowd who on Sunday is singing and praising the Lord as He enters Jerusalem; on Friday they are shouting for His crucifixion. We see it in the religious leaders who believed it was expedient to get rid of the Lord because He was inconvenient to them and their plans. Most of us like to keep things steady and we do not like it when someone rocks our boat. Jesus was calling for conversion, a complete change of heart, and the chief priests did not like this idea. They determined it was better to scheme and lie than to listen to Truth.
On the political side of things, both Pilate and Herod demonstrate their weaknesses. Herod wanted to see Jesus because He wanted to be entertained. Pilate found Jesus innocent, but fear of popular opinion was more than he could handle and he acquiesced to kill someone he knew was innocent rather than stand up and do what is right.
In all of these examples we recognize the same underlying problem: selfishness. It is true that the expression of that selfishness is different in each of these instances, but it remains the basic problem. I am sure we can see these things in our own self. How often, for instance, do we go along with the crowd, swaying like trees in the wind. Today popular opinion is black, so we go along; tomorrow it is white, so we go along. How often are we like the chief priests and want to rid ourselves of people who are inconvenient? There are certainly people who are inappropriate or bad influences, but I am speaking about someone who says or does what is right, but we want that person removed because the person is irritating to us.
In likeness to Pilate, how often do we waffle in order to fit in with everyone else? Instead of standing up for what we really think or believe, we are willing to compromise to be like everyone else. Or, like Herod, we want to meet someone, not for the other person’s sake, but for some personal gain. In other words, we simply want to use this person.
The Gospel today also describes examples those who displayed excellence: people who did not waffle, who did what was right even when it was not popular. Consider Joseph of Arimathea, for instance. First, he did not take part in the scheming of the Sanhedrin. Second, he stepped forward at the risk of ridicule or even rejection, and offer the use of his own tomb for our Lord’s burial.
Of course, Jesus provides the greatest example for us. As the first reading from the prophet Isaiah says, He did not rebel nor did He turn back. Instead, He gave His back to beating and His cheeks to those who plucked His beard. He allowed them to strike His face and spit on Him. He was willing to suffer rather than deny what was right or true. More than that, Jesus was even willing to forgive those who were responsible for His crucifixion. His humility and obedience have become the means of His exaltation and glory. His charity has resulted in the bending of every knee to His Name and the proclamation that He is Lord.
We must consider one further aspect in the Gospel. There are many other characters in this scene, but I want to highlight two groups. First, there is the group of people, perhaps some of those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem and later called for His crucifixion, who went home beating their breasts. Clearly, they realized their error and repented of what they had involved themselves in. Notice that there is no repentance on the part of the instigators, that is, the religious leaders who called for His death.
The second group is comprised of people who believed in Jesus. They stood at a distance from the Cross, but they remained with Him until the end. In these latter two groups we may find ourselves. Perhaps there is something of which we need to repent. The forgiveness for which our Lord prayed will be extended to us if we will have the integrity to repent of our wrongdoing.
Once we have repented, we can become part of the group of faithful followers of our Lord. Having experienced His forgiveness, we can resolve to remain near Him, to remain faithful, to love Him, even if this means suffering with Him or for Him. If your brokenness has been on display, repent now and allow the excellence of your human nature to express itself in love for our Lord!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.