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A REFLECTIVE MOMENT ON PALM SUNDAY AND HOLY WEEK

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HOMILY OF PALM SUNDAY AND HOLY WEEK YEAR A

Today is “Palm Sunday” or “Passion Sunday.” The Holy Mother Church commemorates Christ’s triumphal procession into Jerusalem as the Universal King. Also, today is the beginning of “Holy Week,” which is the most sacred week in the Church’s history and of the entire liturgical year. It is a reflective moment about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is equally a period of intensive prayer and preparation for the celebration of Easter.

It is called “Holy Week” because it is the week the Church celebrates the Paschal or Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, which ends on Easter Sunday), that is, the Paschal Mystery—the Passion, Death, and Glorious Resurrection of Christ, and His triumph over sin and death. Hence, God’s saving plan is being accomplished once and for all by the redemptive death of His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Mission of Jesus Christ

In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah highlights the mission and the impending predicaments of God’s humble servant (Jesus Christ) and, by extension, of those who are faithful in carrying out the salvific mission of God. Despite the predicaments, God’s servant would courageously confront the situation. Hence he says, “For the Lord God helps me; therefore, I have not been confounded; I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:5-7).

In today’s gospel reading (the Passion Narrative), Jesus Christ practically proves Himself as a real servant of God through His humility, obedience, compassion, and sacrifice for the total redemption of humanity. Even though He foresaw His painful death, He humbly accepted to go through it because that was God’s will for Him (John 11:8–10).

Characters in the Passion Narrative

Paradoxically, Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem contrasts sharply with His passion. In other words, those who were singing “Hosanna” in the highest, acclaiming Him as the Messiah, turned back immediately and wanted Him to be crucified. What an irony! People with this kind of attitude abound.

Moreover, there are a plethora of characters inherent in today’s readings: the likes of Judas Iscariot, Peter, the Pharisees, the Chief Priests, the Elders, Pilate, Herod, the crowd, and Jesus Christ, just to mention a few. Meanwhile, these characters can be summarized into six major categories: sycophants, betrayers, deniers, avaricious, sociophobic, and merciful personalities. Let us succinctly explore them and see which category we belong to.

Sycophants

Those who acclaimed Jesus King in His presence but conspired with the Jews to kill Him. Have I in any way presented myself to people as an angel but plotted their downfall in their absence? Do I pretend to love people while I actually hate them?

Betrayers

Those who sell the trust and confidence entrusted to them by their friends because of money. Have I betrayed people’s trust, told lies about them, or leaked out certain secret information for the sake of money, fame, position, or some other privileges?

Deniers

Those who are like chameleons. Do I stay with my friends only when things are going well but abandon them when it seems I can no longer benefit from them?

Avaricious

Judas sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver due to greed. But then, how much of that money did he spend? None! Do I strive at all costs to grab, accumulate, and possess wealth, which sometimes leads me to fight others, keep malice, insult others, or keep enemies? This is useless because, in the end, every dime we have acquired unlawfully will disappear without our enjoying it.

Sociophobics

These personalities are always afraid of what the crowd will say. Pilate knew Jesus Christ was innocent, “for he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up.” But he was more afraid of the crowd than the truth. He acted against his conscience to please the crowd and to secure his job. Do I behave like Pilate?

Merciful

These personalities are always compassionate, kindhearted, sacrificial, and forgiving. Like Jesus Christ, in spite of the betrayal, hatred, rejection, insults, and denial He experienced, He still forgave His offenders, prayed for them, and gave up His life for their salvation. Do I behave like Jesus Christ?

Negative Characters of Some People in our Contemporary World

Undoubtedly, it is no longer news that the characters of human beings living in our contemporary society seem to be almost worse than those living during the time of Jesus Christ. We still have a conglomeration of people who are greedy, are ruled by money, betray one another, are sycophants, are deniers, and often act to please the crowd. Some of them do things not because they are right but because everyone else is doing them. So, how can we Christians make a positive impact in our contemporary world which is saturated with unscrupulous personalities?

Jesus Christ is a Humble servant of God

The second reading describes the task of Jesus Christ as a humble servant of God, from the glory of the Father to the humiliation of His death on the cross to the glorification of His resurrection. As the scripture says, “Though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

A Call to replicate Christ’s Character

Hence, we should reflect seriously on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and practically replicate His character (humility, obedience, love, mercy, compassion, faithfulness, etc.) in our contemporary society. Just like St. Peter says, “For this, you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow His footsteps… He was bearing our faults in His own body on the Cross, so that we might die to our faults and live for holiness” (1 Peter 2:21-24). So, we need the help of the Holy Spirit, and then we need to confess our sins so that we will be purified and acceptable in God’s presence this Easter and beyond.

Conclusion

In this Palm Sunday and Holy week, especially during the Paschal or Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, which ends on Easter Sunday), we are called to reflect seriously on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Also, to prayerfully journey with Jesus Christ, who sacrificed His life and His precious blood to redeem humanity from eternal damnation despite the cruel persecution He suffered because of her. Through His death, humanity has been delivered from the dominion of darkness and is set free from sin (Colossians 1:13-14). Therefore, as Christians who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, how do we reciprocate this sacrificial love that He has shown us?

Furthermore, to be able to achieve this, we need to ask ourselves these pertinent questions based on the aforementioned: “What type of character do I possess?” “Which category of characters do I belong to?” “Have I resolved to make a positive difference in my society?” “Have I determined to become a practical Christian by replicating the character of Jesus Christ in His humility, obedience, love, mercy, compassion, faithfulness, etc.?” “Am I a prayerful person?” “Can I sacrifice my life for the good of others?” “Can I forgive those who hurt me?” “Have I resolved to live a life of holiness?” ”Have I gone to sacramental confession this Holy Week?” “Do I anchor my faith and trust in God at all times?”

PRAYER:

May the Holy Spirit empower you to prayerfully journey with Jesus Christ in His Paschal Mystery and to become a Practical Christian by replicating the character of Jesus Christ all the days of your life, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.[/read]

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