March 18, 2016

HOMILY FOR PALM SUNDAY YEAR C (MARCH 20)


HOMILY FOR PALM SUNDAY YEAR C (MARCH 20)

Ronald Stephens
Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

Palm Sunday leaves us in a bit of a schizophrenia.  On the one hand we have the entry into Jerusalem where the people proclaim Jesus as their Messiah and King, wave palm branches, and we have a great triumphant feel. Then immediately after, we are plunged into the story of the Passion with all of the betrayal, denials, scheming and plotting leading to the death of this same man.
How do we reconcile these two things? Can we?
We get some hints at how to do this in the first three readings today. In the Isaiah reading and the Psalm we see the horrors described – the people who struck the suffering servant, the people who pulled out his beard, who insulted and spat at him turn into something else by the end of the reading. “The Lord God helps me; therefore, I have not been disgraced…and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” Isaiah turns around what has happened to the servant so that he is in the end exalted by God who saves him. Similarly in the Psalm which is so despairing at first – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” the servant cries. People mock him, shake their heads, divide his clothes and encircle him with evildoers. But this too takes a dramatic change in the last verse. The whole tone changes as the psalmist says that the servant’s name will be told to all the brothers and sisters, and the congregations will praise him. All the offspring of Israel will be in awe of him.
And why is there this abrupt shift? St Paul explains so beautifully: “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” There, in a nutshell, is the story of our salvation. But, St. Paul says, it doesn’t end there. It ends as do the Isaiah reading and the Psalm, with exaltation. “Therefore God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is lord, to the glory of the God the Father.”
Today in the Gospel and on Good Friday we don’t get to see the exaltation. We get to see the humility of God, the obedience of Jesus, the love of Jesus for others even in his suffering and finally the execution of Jesus he accepts in obedience. We must await his Easter to see the glorification and exaltation.
Please join in this week on Holy Thursday and Good Friday in order to best prepare yourself for the glory of that exaltation on Easter Sunday.
It is a microcosm of our own lives as well and is well worth meditating on this week.
And this is the good News we look forward to in a week’s time.