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Homily for Palm Sunday, Year B

Today, the Church gives us the option of reflective silence after the Passion, which I think might be a good idea. So, I will just say a few words now which is another option given us.

As you probably know, on Good Friday we always read the Passion according to St John. Palm Sunday then is the time when we hear the other accounts, this year that of St Mark. Each evangelist is like a portrait painter. They each paint Jesus, but each bring out different aspects. Likewise, each Passion narrative, while broadly the same, has distinguishing characteristics.

Today, I want to focus one such aspect in St Mark: namely, the onlookers taunting Christ on the Cross. In particular, the content of those taunts. They are especially poignant when we consider them in the light of the event of today, Palm Sunday.

First then, what is the context of Palm Sunday? What is happening today? Christ is entering Jerusalem as King, as Messiah, as Saviour. This is a triumphal entrance. And everyone knows what is going on. There is no doubt that this is what is being proclaimed. All the prophetic symbols scream this. And we join in. We acclaim Jesus as King, as Messiah, as Saviour.

But then we come to Good Friday. In Mark’s gospel, the onlookers, the people passing by, religious leaders, the crowds, basically the same people who acclaim Christ today, us, we all now taunt him on the Cross. We say: He said he would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. Save yourself and come down from the cross.

Then we say: Let the Messiah, the King of Israel come down from the Cross so that we can see and believe.

Finally, at Jesus’s final moment of anguish, we give him vinegar to drink, to keep him alive to see if God will take him down from the Cross.

We lie and say he said he was going to destroy the temple. It is us who destroy the temple. We say save yourself. We see salvation in terms of saving ourselves, but he doesn’t think about himself: he wants to save us.

We say come down and then we will believe. But even knowing the Resurrection, we still don’t live its truth. We still deny Jesus so many times, ignoring his word and his commandments.

Time and again, we say Come down from the cross. Come down from the Cross. Will he come down from the Cross? We don’t want to be saved this way. We think that there is some other way.

We think we know how the world works, and so how it should be governed. We think we know what is wrong, and so what needs fixing. We think we know the depth of our sins, and therefore the price of our redemption. In all these ways, we betray the fact that we think we know better than God. We think we are God. We know nothing.

As St Paul tells us, all we can really know starts from here. Christ and him crucified. This is the truth. The truth of the world. And the truth of heaven.

Let’s pray therefore that we are given the grace to enter into Christ’s Passion. Let’s pray for the grace this week to participate fully in the mysteries. Let’s pray most of all for the humility to come into the presence of the living God, placing all our faith, all our hope simply on God’s love for us, and doing this by promising to keep God’s Word, who is Jesus, who dies that we might live and rises that we might become divine. 



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