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Passion (Palm) Sunday, Year A – Homily

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
Gospel for the Procession Matthew 21:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24 (2a)
Philippians 2:6-11
Matthew 26:14-27:66
April 5, 2020

The appointed time draws near so Jesus goes to Jerusalem.  As He nears Jerusalem, He receives a royal welcome as the “crowd spread their cloaks and cut branches from the trees.”  The crowds identify Jesus as the prophet.  They have come to realize Jesus is somebody special but do not yet fully understand who He is.

In what happens to Jesus in his Passion, many prophecies are fulfilled.  He is mocked, his hands and feet pierced, and his garments divided.  Jesus knew what was going to happen and He willingly submitted to it.  He had been “in the form of God” but “did not regard equality with God something to be grasped at.”  He willingly “emptied himself” in the Incarnation “becoming obedient to the point of death” on the Cross for us. 

There are four individuals identified by name in the Passion that I would like to reflect on what motivates them.

The first is Judas Iscariot.  He was “one of the Twelve.”  That means he had been specifically called by Jesus.  That did not mean he was perfect.  In fact, he will betray Jesus.

What motivates Judas’ betrayal?  We are told “he went to the chief priests.”  This means it was something he chose.  He was not tricked into it by those who opposed Jesus.  He says to them, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you!”  Judas’ motivation appears to be greed.  Greed is one of the seven deadly sins.

Does greed motivate your actions?

The next person I would like to discuss is Pilate.  Jesus is brought to Pilate by his opponents.  Pilate asks, “Why? What evil has he done?”  He sees no crime.  Pilate proclaims himself “innocent of this man’s blood” yet he orders Jesus to be crucified.  Why?  To appease the crowd.  Pilate allows the crowds to dictate what he does.

Are you willing to set aside what you know is right to appease others?

Then there is Peter.  Peter is the one who, when Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am,” identified Jesus as the Christ.  One might think Peter’s faith is strong.  In the Passion, we see Peter’s fear.

Jesus tells the disciples that their faith will be shaken and when it is “the sheep of the flock will be dispersed.”  Peter replies that his faith will never be shaken.  We could only hope.

Jesus tells Peter, “before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”  Peter remains adamant that He will not deny Jesus. 

Jesus is then arrested.  The disciples do scatter, including Peter.  Peter watches from a distance.  When others recognize Peter as one who was with Jesus, Peter does indeed deny Jesus three times. 

Why?  Fear!  Fear for his life. 

At what times in your life has your faith been shaken?  Does the closing of churches and the Coronavirus cause you fear?  I pray that your faith is strong and this time without public Masses makes you yearn for Jesus even more. 

Perhaps you have experienced something else in your life that shakes your faith, that makes you afraid.  Do not let your fear control you.  Hand your fears over to Jesus.

So that’s Judas, Pilate, and Peter.  Of course, the fourth person named in the Passion I want to talk about Jesus.

Jesus knew exactly what was coming.  He did not run from it even though it caused him agony in the garden.  Knowing what is about to happen, He goes off to pray.  Three times He prays.  He prays, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.

He does not want to suffer.  He does not want to die.  Yet He is “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Jesus surrenders himself to his Father’s Will. 

Then comes his betrayal.  Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss.  Jesus knew this was going to happen.  He could have easily stopped Judas but He did not.  He knows that it must be or else, “how would the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must come to pass in this way?

He trusted in God.  Yet, that did not make it easy.  Jesus is fully divine but He is also fully human.  In his humanity He suffered greatly as He was mocked and scourged.  He was nailed to the Cross for our sins. 

As He hung on the Cross in agony, He called out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”  Yet, even then He submitted to the Father’s Will and “gave up his spirit.

At that moment, in Jesus’ suffering death, our salvation was won. 

It was sacred moment.  It was a powerful moment in the history of God’s people.  “The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened.” 

In that moment, Jesus was recognized for who He is.  It was not the Jews who first recognized the power and grace of the moment.  It was a centurion, a Roman, and his men who called out in that moment, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

Judas was motivated by greed.  Peter was motivated by fear.  Pilate acted as he did to appease the crowd.

What motivated Jesus?

Love.

Jesus had nothing to gain for himself.  He did not empty himself for his own good when He became man in the Incarnation.  He did it for us.  He did it to show us the way to the Father.  He did it because He loved us.

What is your greatest motivation?  Greed?  Fear? Making others happy? 

Let us pray that all our actions be motivated by love, the love of Jesus on the Cross.

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