HOMILY FOR PALM SUNDAY (THE PASSION OF OUR LORD), YEAR A. Readings: Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2:6-11 and Matthew 26:14-27:66.

Each time we turn to sin or remain in our sins, we betray and deny Christ again, strip him of his garment and keep humiliating him daily.

Today we celebrate the last Sunday of Lent in the Church’s Liturgical Calendar. Today’s celebration begins the Holy Week, in which we have the climax of all Liturgical celebrations, that is, the highest event in the history of salvation. This event begins with the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, where Christ will be handed over to the Chief Priests and Scribes, and they will condemn him to death as he had earlier announced to his disciples (Mt 20:18). In view of this, the liturgy of today presents Christ’s Divinity and Humanity, his ordeals, his humiliations, sufferings and finally his exaltation. This event establishes his Kingship and fulfils the prophecy of old.

The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah speaks of the suffering servant, a foretelling of Christ’s passion, the servant of God who did not hide his face from spittle and shame, who gave his back to those who struck him, and his cheeks to those who pulled out his beard. The reading speaks loudly of patience, humility and obedience as virtues expected of a true child of God. Those who persevere to the end will certainly have their reward and will never be put to shame. This prophesy of Isaiah already has a connotation of humiliation of Christ, which appeared in both the second reading and the Gospel.

The second reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians presents the Christological hymn. This hymn is divided in three parts: Chapter 2:6 expresses the Divine nature of Christ, “He was in the form of God but did not count equality with God, he emptied himself” (the kenosis), an expression of Christ’s humility. In chapter 2:7-8 tells of the Incarnation/Crucifixion, taking the nature of man, passed through humiliations, sufferings and death; lastly is 2:9-11 the Exaltation, given the name above every other name and his return to his divine state. Christ’s expression of humility made him subject himself to his creatures, which is reflected in the passion narrative/Gospel.

The passion of Christ communicates something important, that before the exaltation or the crown comes the cross. The cross indicates to us a means of our salvation. It is also the story of our lives, our failures and recovery as we see in Judas and Peter. The passion exposes true friends as it did to Judas who betrayed the master and Peter who denied him. It also exposes friends who smile before us, sing our praises, wine and dine with us, but behind us, stabs us to death. It expresses the reality of man, how unfaithful and unpredictable we can be at times, which also affects our relationship with God and our fellow men. Each time we sin or remain in our sins, we betray and deny Christ again, strip him of his garment and keep humiliating him daily. Let us be true friends that will stand by him at all times.

As we begin this great week, this Holy Week, let us religiously follow Christ to Calvary with our pains, our worries, our sickness, our sorrows and our crosses, so that we can die with him on Good Friday and rise with him on Easter Sunday. If anyone feels he/she has suffered so much humiliation in this journey of faith, let us remember that Christ took the lead and came out victoriously through perseverance, humility and obedience. We too can do the same through Christ who strengthens us. Amen!

Happy Palm Sunday!

Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ

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