Detailed homily for Palm/Passion Sunday Year B
Theme: THE CONTRADICTIONS OF LIFE
By: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
Homily for Sunday March 28 2021
R1 – Is 50: 4-7;
R2 – Ph 2: 6-11
GOSPEL2 – Mk 11:1-10
GOSPEL2 – Mk 14: 1-15:47
An interesting old fable was narrated about the colt (donkey) that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday. The colt thought that the reception was organized to honor him. “I am a unique donkey!” this excited animal thought. When he asked his mother if he could walk down the same street alone the next day and be honored again, his mother said, “No, you are nothing without Him who was riding you.” Five days later, the colt saw a huge crowd of people in the street. It was Good Friday, and the soldiers were taking Jesus to Calvary. The colt could not resist the temptation of another royal reception. Ignoring the warning of his mother, he ran to the street, but he had to flee for his life as soldiers chased him and people stoned him. Thus, the colt finally learned the lesson that he was only a poor donkey without Jesus to ride on him.
Beloved in Christ, today is Palm Sunday. The day we commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey as the Prince of Peace. Today marks the beginning of the Holy Week; the great and unique week, when we welcome Jesus, without whom we are valueless, into our lives and asking Him to allow us to share in His suffering, death and Resurrection.
This is the time of the year when we stop to remember and relive the events which brought about our redemption and salvation; because without Jesus’ death and resurrection; humanity, like the misinformed donkey in the introit story, worths nothing and the world would plunge into perdition.
The readings of today’s liturgy combine contrasting moments, which one could term, “Contradictions of life,” viz: One of glory, the other of suffering: the royal welcome of Jesus in Jerusalem, and the drama of the trial, culminating in crucifixion, death and burial for the Christ.
In the first Gospel, Jesus rides on a lowly donkey. It was typical of kings in his time, who used to travel in such processions on horseback during wartime but preferred to ride a donkey in times of peace. Since the sign of a king was humility, the customary mount for a king in procession in Israel was a donkey. In 1Kgs 1:38-41, we see how Prince Solomon used his father David’s royal donkey for the ceremonial procession on the day of his coronation. But in a contrasting dimension for Jesus, he was not led to the throne; instead, he was forced to embrace the cross, inorder to be crucified for the sins of humanity.
Where as, in the second part of today’s Gospel, we listened to the Passion of Christ according to Mark. It tells us about the shameful, cruel and bloody death of Jesus on the cross. The Passion narrative is indeed a heart rending story of betrayal, denial, jealousy, hatred, wickedness, injustice, brutality and heartlessness meted out on the innocent. It alongside, challenges us to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the story like:
(i) Peter who denied Jesus.
(ii)Judas who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
(iii)Pilate who acted against his conscience and condemned the innocent
(iv)Herod who ridiculed Jesus
(v) The leaders of the people and Pharisee who incited the masses against Jesus and mounted pressure on pilate to crucify Jesus because of envy, jealousy and pride.
(vi) The soldiers who flogged, beat, ridiculed and made fun of Jesus
(vii) Simon of Cyrene aided Jesus to carry the cross
(viii) Veronica, the caring woman who wiped off his face.
(ix) Caiphas, the heartless leader, organized a plot to kill Jesus and equally presided over the unjust and corrupt Sanhedrin trial of Jesus.
*LIFE IS FULL OF CONTRADICTIONS*
One of the greatest lessons from today’s celebration, most especially, from the two Gospels of today’s liturgy is that, life is full of contradictions, which comprise of: ups and and downs; high and low moments, easy and difficult times; cheering and jeering moments; glorious and challenging periods.
However, in the whole story, there is a mixture of joy and sorrow.
~The same Jesus who rode triumphantly on a donkey into Jerusalem, was gruesomely dehumanised, illy-treated and murdered.
~The people who shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David” were the same people who shouted, “Crucify Him!”
~The same crowd who acknowledged him and their saviour, swerved within some days to see him as the cause of their problems.
~The same people who offered their clothes even for him to match on, were the ones who stripped him naked
~The tools of donkey and olive branches which sue for peace are indeed contradictory to the brutal measures and the presence of Roman soldiers who crucified him.
~The palm frond itself is a sign of contradiction. There are thorns and tender leaves, representing the two dimensions of life: good times and challenging times of human existence.
In the Markan account of the passion narrative, it was uniquely understood that Jesus foretold these hard times and finally accepted it as one pre-ordained by his Heavenly Father. As St Paul describes in the second reading, Jesus obediently embraced the will of God even when it hurts, to the point of giving up his own life.
Purposefully, Jesus teaches us how to bear sufferings as the suffering servant of the prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading, who learnt to obey through suffering. Despite his ugly experience of “forsakeness and desertation,” he remained obedient even unto death, bearing in mind that after the rain comes the sun and and the end of tunnel, light abounds. The joys of the resurrection on Easter Sunday, wiped away and decimated the sorrows of Good Friday.
Finally, a story was narrated about a man who had a dream One night. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he
questioned the LORD about it:
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied: “My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
Beloved in Christ, doing the will of God could mean passing through crucibles sometimes, as we see in the passion narrative, but one thing is certain, Jesus does not abandon us but carry us in our trying moments.
AS WE ENTER THE HOLY WEEK TODAY, MAY THE HOLY SPIRIT GRANT US THE GRACE TO REEXAMINE OUR LIVES SO AS TO CONFORM WITH JESUS’ STANDARDS OF TRIUMPH THROUGH THE CRUCIBLES OF THE CROSS. AMEN.
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
_FR GERALD MUOKA_