Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday

           When it comes to preaching I believe the longer the readings, the longer the homily.  So buckle up everyone!
            I’ve been thinking about the importance of stories in our lives.  In his book Rediscover Catholicism, Matthew Kelly argues that we all have stories which range from casual to critical in our lives.  But we all love them.  A couple weeks ago one of the third graders came up to me after Mass.  He said, “Fr. Ben, I have a fish story to tell you!”  I would have loved to hear it, but his whole class had left him behind chatting with me.  After telling him to catch up with his class a first grader called out to him, “I’d LOVE to hear your fish story!”  Then there were the bedtime stories my Mom and Dad read to me.  By the time I was three or four I had most of them memorized.  Mom would try to skip pages, but she learned early you couldn’t fool soon-to-be Fr. Ben.
            In celebrating Palm Sunday we are entering into the greatest story ever told—the Good News of Jesus Christ.  And like any good story it shares a few key aspects.  First, the Gospel captures our imagination.  As we just read the Passion narrative I hope you pictured the scenes.  What was it like during the Last Supper?  In the angry mob?  At the Cross? 
Second, the Gospel places several characters before us to compare and contrast our own lives.  Would I have sold Jesus for a mere sum of money like Judas?  Would I have denied Jesus, like Peter, or have had the courage to admit I knew him?  What would I have done while the crowd was screaming for Jesus’ blood? 
Finally, every good piece of literature needs a hero.  Our hero is the greatest of them all—Jesus Christ.  We hear some of the most important readings in the whole Bible about Jesus today and are reminded that he emptied himself, facing a brutal passion and death.  He was beaten.  His beard was plucked.  He was slandered in public.  Holes were torn in his hands and feet.
Yet unlike other narratives, the Gospel is true.  It is as real as the palms we hold or the pews on which we sit.
These palms…they were held by the crowds as they hailed his entry to Jerusalem.  They shouted “Hosanna!” at the coming of the savior and son of David.  This same crowd screamed only a few days later, “Release Barabbas!  Take him away!  Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  In holding these palms we are reminded that we, too, glorify God.  Yet we, too, call for his death.  Whenever we sin, we yell, “Crucify him!”
The only answer for this paradox of our sinful nature is to let God—the author of life—and not ourselves to write the end of our story.  And in this holiest week of the year we have the chance to let the Author write our stories anew.  Please enter into this week by increasing your prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Come to the great feast of the Triduum and celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus’ passion and resurrection.
Know of my prayers for you this holy week.  Enter into the greatest story and allow it to change your life.

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