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HOMILY FOR PALM SUNDAY (A)

Fr Billy Swan


Dear friends. Today we begin Holy Week. Easter is the high point of the Church’s year where the great events of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection are recalled and proclaimed once again. On this Palm Sunday, we listen to the passion account from Matthew’s Gospel that begins with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey as the crowds welcomed him with branches of palm. Today on the first day of Holy Week, we invite everyone to participate fully in the Easter ceremonies and to become involved in the drama that unfolds. This week we listen once again to the greatest story ever told and how Jesus Christ did battle with every form of human dysfunction, evil, sin and death in order to conquer it. Out of love, Jesus descended into the hell of his passion in order to offer hope and forgiveness to all of us.

As we listen again to the stories of the Last Supper, the trial of Jesus, his condemnation, his crucifixion and resurrection, there is a power that absorbs us into them. In the drama that unfolds, we see that we are not spectators but active participants who have been written into the play. Compare for example the family who share a meal before a member emigrates to Australia the following day - the emotions of everyone present and the words of Jesus ‘My friends I shall not be with you much longer’ (Jn. 13:33). Consider the anguish of someone who faces major surgery in the morning or someone who gets on board a rubber dingy about to cross the sea and the words of Jesus ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death’ (Matt. 26:38). Or think of the experience of someone condemned to death or prison for something they didn’t do and how the cowardly Pilate washed his hands as he condemned an innocent man. Think for a moment of a family around the bed of a loved one who is dying and the experience of Mary and the others at the foot of the cross. Think of those who have suffered terrible losses in their lives but have found meaning and hope in their faith in the resurrection, finding the strength in that faith to keep living, despite everything. The list goes on and on.

Maybe you can recognise yourself in some of these examples - perhaps in all of them. If you can, do not be surprised for this is the drama of the Gospel that invites us to move from ‘following him at a distance’ (Matt. 26:58) to being active participants in the dramatic events of Holy Week that contain the full drama of human existence that needs saving.

Finally, in the Passion according to Matthew, Jesus finds the apostles sleeping in the garden. At the time when he needed their company most, they were not present to him. It is a powerful reminder for us to stay awake this week and be attentive to the great drama about to unfold. In this drama we are all absorbed and involved but most of all, saved by his love. Let us prayerfully enter Jerusalem with him this week.


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