📺 In the footsteps of Jesus, the donkey rider

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Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily (everything on one page)

There is a biography of a man who was one of the most learned people of his generation. He had two PhDs – one in philosophy, another in theology. Further, he was a world-class musician, and concert halls around the world were sold out when he went on tour. Then, to the surprise of everyone, he decided he wanted to go to a medical college to earn yet another doctoral degree in medicine.

As soon as he had his medical degree, he left the comfortable surroundings of Western Europe and went into the jungles of Africa. There he cleared away part of the jungle and began building a clinic and a hospital. Once these were built, he started providing medical care to the young and old of Africa.

Many years later, Dr. Albert Schweitzer won the Nobel Peace Prize for his ministry of healing in the jungles of Africa. When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, he shared with that distinguished crowd in Stockholm the reason he had built a hospital in Africa. The reason was summed up, he stated in the first words he always said to his native patients as they awakened from an operation. He would say:

In the foo

He accepted the challenge to be a humble servant of Jesus Christ.

And this is our challenge – this is your challenge – this is my challenge in this Holy Week! When we look beyond our own needs to the needs of others, we will be walking the road to becoming a humble servant of Jesus Christ.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 The cross and the crucifix down through the centuries

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Until the fifth century AD, the early Christians generally avoided representing the Cross with the body of Jesus; in fact even bare crosses were rarely depicted until the fourth century AD. As J. H. Miller (op. cit.) explained, there were many reasons for the Church’s reluctance to openly represent the cross as its symbol. For many Jews and Gentiles, the cross underscored the seemingly irreconcilable contradiction of Christian belief, viz. that a crucified man could also be God. As various early heresies attacked either the divinity or humanity of Christ, the symbol of the cross, which seemed to exacerbate the conflict, was avoided,

Not until the fourth century (during the reign of Constantine) did the cross begin to appear everywhere in public places as the pre-eminent symbol of Christianity. Despite the frequency of its representation in Christian art and architecture, the cross remains an ambivalent symbol. In its crossbeams meet death and life, sin and salvation, conquest and victory, immanence and transcendence. The cross represents both the basest aspects of the human condition and the most sublime reflection of divinity. As Karl Rahner once explained, “the cross of the Lord is the revelation of what sin really is. The cross of Christ mercilessly reveals what the world hides from itself: that it, as it were, devours the Son of God in the insane blindness of its sin — a sin in which Godless hate is truly set on fire upon contact with the love of God” (The Content of Faith, Crossroad Press, New York: 1992). 12:32). — As the dual revelation of the sinfulness of humanity and the love of God, the cross is unparalleled. ( Sanchez Files).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 Welcome home Mr. President

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A number of years ago, Newsweek magazine carried the story of the memorial service held for Hubert Humphrey, former Vice-President of the United States. Hundreds of people came from all over the world to say good-bye to their old friend and colleague.

But one person who came was shunned and ignored by virtually everyone there. Nobody would look at him much less speak to him. That person was former President Richard Nixon. Not long before, he had gone through the shame and infamy of Watergate. He was back in Washington for the first time since his resignation from the presidency.

Then a very special thing happened, perhaps the only thing that could have made a difference and broken the ice. President Jimmy Carter, who was in the White House at that time, came into the room. Before he was seated, he saw Nixon over against the wall, all by himself. He went over to [him] as though he were greeting a family member, stuck out his hand to the former president, and smiled broadly. To the surprise of everyone there, the two of them embraced each other, and Carter said, “Welcome home, Mr. President! Welcome home!”

Commenting on that, Newsweek magazine asserted, “If there was a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion.”

The turning point for us is Palm Sunday. It is our moment of triumph. It was a triumph because God, Jesus, decided to ignore our miserable state and act on our behalf.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 Hosanna leading to the cross

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Some years ago, a book was written by a noted American historian entitled When the Cheering Stopped. It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following World War I. When that war was over, Wilson, the 28th president of the United States was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought, and the world had been made safe for democracy.

On his first visit to Paris after the war, Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than France’s own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop.

At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate, and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all, the President’s health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.

It’s a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. It happened that way to Jesus. When He emerged on the public scene, He was an overnight sensation. On Palm Sunday, leafy palm branches were spread before Him and there were shouts of “Hosanna.” But before it was all over, a tidal wave of manipulated opposition had welled up that brought Jesus to the cross.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 Spiritual significance of donkeys

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Church tradition tells us (though none of the Gospels report it), that this wasn’t Jesus’ first donkey ride. Matthew’s text doesn’t detail how Joseph traveled with Mary to Egypt and back to Nazareth again. Nor does Luke’s Gospel describe how Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem. But all of us have in our heads the picture of a pregnant Mary perched on the back of a sturdy donkey. Our mind’s eye puts her back on that beast for the escape to Egypt and the homeward trek to Nazareth after Herod had died.

Church tradition has long suggested that in honor of the donkey’s humble service to Jesus, the animal was rewarded with a permanent “sign of the cross,” for most donkeys do show a distinctive black cross pattern across their sturdy shoulders.

Despite this lip service from Church tradition, the donkey still remains far beyond the pale of glory. Little girls don’t dream of riding across summer fields on a little donkey. The Kentucky Derby doesn’t blow the herald horn for a herd of dinky donkeys to race around the track. And everyone from Shakespeare to Pinocchio knows that fools and dolts are depicted as donkeys. Of course, the donkey’s other common name says it all: a donkey is just an . . . well, you know what that word is.

Yet if the mission of the Church is to carry Christ into the world, then each of us is called to be a donkey. There’s no particular glory in being a donkey. There are only long trails, steep roads, heavy loads, and little or no recognition for a completed job.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 The Hero’s Quest

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Some of you will remember the name of Joseph Campbell. Campbell taught in relative obscurity for many years until Bill Moyers discovered him, did a series on public television about Campbell’s ideas about mythology and comparative religions, and thus elevated him into celebrity, most of it posthumous since Campbell died shortly after that television series. What caught Moyers’ attention was Campbell’s book entitled, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Incidentally, it also caught George Lucas’s attention and was the inspiration for his film, Star Wars. The thesis of that book is that the same story appears over and over again in all the world’s literature, including the Bible. He called that story, “The Hero’s Quest.” He said that the plot is always the same.

A hero must make a solitary journey, sometimes to climb a mountain to get the prize, sometimes to go to the cave to slay the dragon, sometimes to journey the gates of the forbidden city. The hero is the person who faces hostile powers, enters the struggle, prepared to give his or her life, and then comes out of it a new person, with a new life.

Those stories are everywhere. They are a part of every culture. In Greece, we see it as the Golden Fleece. In Britain, it is the Arthurian legends and the Holy Grail. And in the Bible, it is the story of Abraham leaving Ur of Chaldees, the most civilized part of the world in those days, and journeying through many “dangers, toils, and snares” to a promised land. Or it is Moses, leaving the comfort and security of shepherding in Midian to go to Egypt and confront Pharaoh. Or it is David, leaving the simple life of a shepherd boy and going out to meet the giant Goliath. But unparalleled in history is Jesus’ leaving the safety of Galilee and heading for Jerusalem to accomplish His mission of redeeming mankind by His suffering, death and Resurrection. That is the story of Palm Sunday.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 And Superman ducked!

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Jesus rides upon a donkey fulfilling an ancient prophecy, but clearly in total control. He knows what will happen to Him in Jerusalem. Still He rides on. He does not seek to avoid the task to which He has been called. It reminds me of a routine comedian David Brenner used to do about Superman in the movies.

Go back with me in your minds. Picture this scene. Superman is confronting one of the bad guys. The bad guy would fire at Superman with a gun. Superman would smirk and throw his chest out. The bullets would bounce harmlessly away. But did you ever notice what happened next? Brenner said, “And then when the guy ran out of bullets, he would throw the gun at Superman. And Superman ducked.” He ducked! I’ll bet you never thought about that before. Bullets bounced off of him, but when a gun was thrown at him, Superman ducked.

Perhaps that amusing insight will serve to remind us that Jesus did not have to enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He could have ducked His mission. But still He rode on.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 King for a day

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Once upon a time, before television, there was radio. One of the most popular daytime radio programs in those days was called Queen for a Day. Each day four or five women from the studio audience would tell the host what they would like to do if they could be “Queen for a Day.”  Then, on the basis of applause, one woman was chosen, and insofar as they were able, the sponsors fulfilled her wildest desires. She was given a number of valuable prizes and for one day she reigned as “Queen.”

That sounds like what happened to Jesus, doesn’t it? Jesus was crowned “King for a Day” on that first Palm Sunday.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 Victory of St. Polycarp

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In Christian art, the martyrs are almost always shown holding palm branches as symbols of victory over temptation and suffering. These martyrs are our older brothers and sisters in the Faith — God wants us to learn from and be encouraged by them. Take the example of St Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.

In the year 155, Polycarp was condemned to death for refusing to give idolatrous worship to the Roman Emperor. As he was a well-known Christian leader, even though he was already in his 80s, his execution was made into a large public spectacle.

He was burned to death in the city stadium. Normally, criminals executed that way were actually fastened to the pile of wood, so that they wouldn’t climb out of the fire. But not Polycarp.

He told his guards: “He who gives me strength to endure the fire will also grant me to stay on the pyre unflinching even without your making sure of it with nails.”

According to eye witnesses, his last words were a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving to God for giving him the honor of sharing Christ’s cup of suffering.  Those same eye witnesses tell us that when the fire was lit,  a great flame blazed up,  but instead of burning Polycarp right away,  it surrounded him like a fiery force field;  his face was serene and his body glowed like gold being refined in a furnace.  As he peacefully breathed his last, the onlookers perceived a fragrant smell, as if incense were being offered.

This is the paradox of Palm Sunday, which God wants us all to experience: that Christ’s limitless love can strengthen us to resist even the greatest temptations, and fill us with interior peace and joy even amidst the flames of suffering that torment us here on earth. (E- Priest) . 

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

The myth of redemptive violence

In a period when attendance at Christian Sunday schools is dwindling, the myth of redemptive violence has won children’s voluntary acquiescence to a regimen of religious indoctrination more extensive and effective than any in the history of religions. Estimates vary widely, but the average child is reported to log roughly 36,000 hours of television by age 18, viewing some 15,000 murders. What church or synagogue can even remotely keep pace with the myth of redemptive violence in hours spent teaching children or the quality of presentation? (Think of the typical “children’s sermon” – how bland by comparison!)” With that kind of insight as a background, perhaps we should EXPECT what happened to Jesus in the Holy Week. (“The Myth of Redemptive Violence” http://www.biblesociety.org.uk/exploratory/articles/wink99.doc ).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Triumph and tragedy of Holy Week

On Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, General of the Union Army, at the Appomattox Court House, Appomattox, Virginia. This surrender ended the bloodiest war ever fought on American soil. State against state, brother against brother, it was a conflict that literally tore the nation apart.

Five days later, on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, America’s most revered president, Abraham Lincoln, was shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theatre. It was Lincoln who wrote the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery in the U.S. forever. It was Lincoln who wrote and gave The Gettysburg Address. Lincoln hated war, but he was drawn into this one because he believed it was the only way to save the nation.

On Palm Sunday, the war ended. Triumph. On Good Friday, Abraham Lincoln became the first U.S. president to be assassinated. Tragedy.

Welcome to Holy Week. Welcome to the triumph and the tragedy of the six days preceding Easter. (Surrender location corrected by Fr. Richard W. Frank, richardwfrank1@yahoo.com)

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

“What did the Christian’s God do then?”

On Marco Polo’s celebrated trip to the Orient, he was taken before the great and fearsome ruler, Genghis Khan. Now what was Marco Polo supposed to do before this mighty pagan conqueror? One false move could cost him his life. He decided to tell the story of Jesus as it is recorded in the Gospels. It is said that when Marco Polo related the events of Holy Week, describing Jesus’ betrayal, His trial, scourging, and crucifixion, Genghis Khan became more and more agitated, more engrossed in the story, and more tense.

When Marco Polo pronounced the words, “Then Jesus bowed his head and yielded up His spirit,” Genghis Khan could no longer contain himself. He interrupted, bellowing, “What did the Christian’s God do then? Did He send thousands of angels from Heaven to smite and destroy those who killed his Son?”

What did the Christian’s God do then? He watched His beloved Son die, that’s what the Christian’s God did then. For that was the way God chose for Jesus to ascend the throne of His Kingdom and to establish His Lordship for all time. Not at all the way we would expect God to demonstrate His might and power, but that’s the way it was, and that is how we know what our God is like. In practical terms, that means that this suffering King who rules in love comes to lay His claim on our life. Our entire life is subject to His Lordship, not just a portion of it. To have Christ for our King means that we must rely on Him for everything, most of all the forgiveness of sins.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

“Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.”

Constantine the Great was the first Christian Roman emperor. His father Constantius I who succeeded Diocletian as emperor in 305 AD, was a pagan with a soft heart for Christians. It is said that when he ascended the throne, he discovered that many Christians held important jobs in the government and in the court. So he issued an executive order to all those Christians: “Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.”

The great majority of Christians gave up their jobs rather than disown Christ. Only a few cowards gave up their religion rather than lose their jobs. The emperor was pleased with the majority who showed the courage of their convictions and gave their jobs back to them while he dismissed those who were willing to give up their allegiance to Christ to keep their jobs, saying to them, “If you will not be true to your God you will not be true to me either.”

Today we join the Palm Sunday crowd in spirit to declare our loyalty to Christ and our fidelity to His teachings by actively participating in the Palm Sunday liturgy. As we carry the palm to our homes, we are declaring our choice to accept Jesus as the King and ruler of our lives and our families. Let us express our gratitude to Jesus for redeeming us by His suffering and death. We do so best by our active participation in the Holy Week liturgy and our reconciliation with God and His Church, as we repent of our sins and receive God’s pardon and forgiveness from Jesus through his Church.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

After the shouts of Hosanna we should walk to Golgotha

Bishop Kenneth Carder (Tennessee) wrote: “The Church of today has become an institution in which even belief in God is optional or peripheral. Marketing techniques for a multiple option institution have replaced response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the means of membership enlistment. The basic appeal is to self-defined needs rather than a call to radical discipleship. The Church’s mission, all too often, is to meet its members’ perceived needs rather than to serve God’s need for a redeemed, reconciled, and healed world.”

Our concept of consumerism has crept into the Church. To recruit persons and to be marketable we think that we need to be able to say: “Look what our Church can offer you.” In this atmosphere of a sorority rush party, talk of discipleship is muted. Discipleship means knowing Who Jesus Christ is and following the Revelation made known to us in His teaching, death, Resurrection, and presence. Commitment means that, after the shouts of Hosanna, we walk to Golgotha carrying His cross of suffering.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

The humble king versus proud kings

The dictator Sulla during the time of the Roman republic invented the “proscription”, by which he would just announce whom he wanted dead. This would be read out in public places and he then would reward anyone who would kill that particular person.

Caligula abandoned himself to cruelty and lust. He declared himself to be a god and would often go through the streets of Rome dressed as Bacchus, Venus, or Apollo. The Romans were compelled to worship him, and he made the wealthiest citizens his priests. Having exhausted Rome and Italy, in AD. 39 Caligula led a large army across the Alps for the purpose of plundering Gaul, where the richest citizens were put to death and their property confiscated.

The crowd that cheered Jesus was familiar with such cruelties of the Kings and Emperors. Contrary to their experience, they found a new procession where the king was adorned with humility. (Fr. Bobby Jose).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Help! Help!

There is an old story about a preacher who was having problems and decided to leave the ministry. But he ran into trouble finding another job. Finally, in desperation, he took a job at the local zoo. The gorilla had died, and since it had been the children’s favorite animal, the zoo officials decided to put someone in a gorilla costume until a real replacement could be found.

To the minister’s surprise, he liked the job. He enjoyed ministering to children as the donkey on Palm Sunday carried Jesus. He got lots of attention and could eat all he wanted. There was no stress: there were no deadlines, complaints or committees. And he could take a nap anytime he wanted.

One day he was feeling particularly frisky. So he began swinging on the trapeze. Higher and higher he went. But suddenly he lost his grip, flipped a couple of times, and landed in the next cage. Stunned and dazed, he looked up and saw a ferocious lion. In his panic he forgot he was supposed to be a gorilla and yelled, “Help! Help!” That ferocious lion turned in his direction and said, “0h, shut up, man, I’m a minister too.”

Unlike these gorilla and lion ministers, all of us are supposed to be donkey ministers by becoming donkey-givers like the man Jesus met long ago, who loaned his donkey to Jesus to ride as He entered Jerusalem for the last time. We become donkey-givers when we give something that promotes Jesus and His Kingdom. Five hundred years from now as we delight in the glory of God’s Kingdom, we will not even remember how much money we earned on earth or how big our houses were or whether we had much status or popularity. But we will celebrate forever every single donkey we gave to the Master in the form of little things we have done for others in Jesus’ name for God’s glory.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

The Traveler

Richard Matheson wrote a science-fiction story called “The Traveler.” It’s about a scientist called Paul Jairus, who is part of a research time that has developed an energy screen to permit people to travel back into time. The first trip is scheduled to take place a few days before Christmas and Jairus has been picked to make the trip. He decided to go back in time to the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary.

Jairus is a non-believer and anticipates finding the crucifixion different from the way the Bible describes it. When the historic moment comes, Jairus steps into the energy screen and soon finds himself soaring back into time -100 years, 1000 years, 2000 years. The energy screen touches down on target and Calvary is swarming with people, everybody’s attention is focused on three men nailed to crosses about 100 feet away. Immediately Jairus asks the Command Centre for permission to move closer to the crosses, they grant it, but tell him to stay inside the energy screen. Jairus moves closer and as he does, his eyes come to rest on Jesus. Suddenly something remarkable begins to happen, Jairus feels drawn to Jesus, as a tiny piece of metal is drawn to a magnet. He is deeply moved by the love radiating from Jesus, it’s something he’d never experienced before. Then contrary to all his expectations, events on Calvary begin to unfold exactly as the Gospel described them. Jairus is visibly shaken.

The Command Centre realizes this and fears he’s becoming emotionally involved. They tell him to prepare for immediate return to the 20th century. Jairus protests, but to no avail. The trip back goes smoothly. When Jairus steps from the energy screen, it’s clear he’s a changed man. (Mark Link). 

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Helplessness of a terminal cancer patient

The renowned spiritual writer Henri Nouwen, shares how he once went to a hospital to visit a man dying of cancer. The man was still relatively young and had been a very hardworking and generative person. He was the father of a family and provided well for them. He was the chief executive officer in a large company and took good care of both the company and his employees. Moreover, he was involved in many other organizations, including his Church, and, because of his leadership abilities, was often the one in charge. But now, this once-so-active man, this person who was so used to being in control of things, was lying on a hospital bed, dying, unable to take care of even his most basic needs. As Nouwen approached the bed, the man took his hand. It’s significant to note the particular frustration he expressed:

“Father, you have to help me! I’m dying, and I am trying to make peace with that, but there is something else too: You know me, I have always been in charge—I took care of my family. I took care of the company. I took care of the Church. I took care of things! Now I am lying here, on this bed and I can’t even take care of myself. I can’t even go to the bathroom! Dying is one thing, but this is another! I’m helpless! I can’t do anything anymore!”

Despite his exceptional pastoral skills, Nouwen, like any of us in a similar situation, was left rather helpless in the face of this man’s plea. The man was undergoing an agonizing passivity. He was now a patient. He had once been active, the one in charge; and now, like Jesus in the hours leading up to his death, he was reduced being a patient, one who is ministered to by others. Nouwen, for his part, tried to help the man see the connection between what he was undergoing and what Jesus endured in his passion, especially how this time of helplessness, diminishment, and passivity is meant to be a time where we can give something deeper to those around us. (Quoted by Fr. Ron Rolheiser).

Among other things, Nouwen read the Passion narratives of the Gospels aloud to him because what this man was enduring parallels very clearly what Jesus endured in the hours leading up to his death, a time we Christians entitle, “the Passion of Jesus.” What exactly was the Passion of Jesus?

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Obediently accepting death on a cross

Andy lived in Jersey City. His father worked for the great meat-packing firm of Swift and Company. Andy’s dad used every opportunity to educate his son along practical lines. One day when the boy was about ten, he took him on a tour of the Swift packinghouses in Newark to show him how they killed animals for the meat-markets. Swift called these places their “abattoirs.” The French word abattoir sounds a little less gross, but it means the same as the English “slaughter-house.” What the butchers did there was a necessary but bloody business, not always easy for a visitor to stomach. Andy noticed in particular the way in which the different types of animals reacted to impending death. The beef cattle and calves struggled and bellowed with fear. Pigs squealed and squirmed and tried to escape. But the sheep were different. They simply stood there meek and silent, offering no resistance to their slayers. When Andy grew up, he became a priest. He never forgot the way he had seen sheep behave in the face of death, and he often pointed out in his Holy Week sermons how appropriately the Christ who died for us is called “the Lamb.” The Jews of Bible times knew very well how sheep acted under these circumstances. Sheep and goats were their main livestock. Isaiah spoke out of experience when he foretold in vision how the Messiah would die: “Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.” (Is 53:7)

Today as we enter upon Passion Week, let us bear in mind this symbol of Christ as a lamb, and during the narrative of His passion and death see how well it was fulfilled. (Father Robert F. McNamara).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Two processions

“Two processions entered Jerusalem on a spring day in the year 30 … One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession. From the east, Jesus rode a donkey down the Mount of Olives, cheered by his followers. Jesus was from the peasant village of Nazareth, his message was about the kingdom of God, and his followers came from the peasant class …On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Idumea, Judea and Samaria, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers. Jesus’s procession proclaimed the kingdom of God; Pilate’s proclaimed the power of empire. The two processions embody the central conflict of the week that led to Jesus’ crucifixion. As Mark tells the story in 11:1-11, Jesus’ procession is a prearranged ‘counter-procession.’

The meaning of the demonstration is clear, for it uses symbolism from the prophet Zechariah in the Jewish Bible. According to Zechariah, a king would be coming to Jerusalem (Zion), ‘humble, and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey’ (9:9). Jesus’s procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate’s procession embodied the power, glory, and violence of the empire that ruled the world. Jesus’ procession embodied an alternative vision, the Kingdom of God. The king, riding on a donkey, will banish war from the land—no more chariots, warhorses, or bows.

Commanding peace to the nations, Jesus will be a king of peace. Pilate’s military procession was a demonstration of both Roman imperial power and Roman imperial theology — worshipping the emperor as god. It was the standard practice of the Roman governors of Judea to be in Jerusalem for the Jewish festivals … to be in the city in case there was trouble … The mission of the troops with Pilate was to reinforce the Roman garrison permanently stationed in the Fortress Antonia, overlooking the Jewish Temple and its courts. No wonder, the Roman governor realized how the peasant procession was a threat to his government and, hence, its leader should be exterminated.” (Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus’ Final Week in Jerusalem.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Reminder of Maccabean victory celebration

A key element of understanding the connection between the Palm Sunday reception given to Jesus and Good Friday is to recognize that the actions, words, and symbols of Palm Sunday indicated a religious and political Messiah who would save the Jews from foreign rule and regain for them religious and political freedom. The occasion of this reception was carefully chosen by the Lord God, through Jesus’ disciples, to coincide with the Passover feast which celebrated the Jewish liberation from Egyptian rule and slavery.

The palms used in the procession and the slogan used (“Hosanna!” meaning “Save us, God!”) were probably used by Judas Maccabaeus and his men December 14, 164 BC, when when they purified the Temple from the pagan Greek desecration begun on that same date in 167 BC by order of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and in the June 3, 141 BC victory parade to the Temple after Simon Maccabaeus, last of the family, had retaken and cleared the Citadel in Jerusalem. In 1 Mc13:51, we read:

On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred seventy-first year, the Jews entered it with praise and palm branches, and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments, and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel.”

It was natural, then, that the Romans saw the crowds of people carrying palm branches and giving a royal reception to a very popular, miracle-working rabbi, Jesus, as a potential threat to their power and a banner for revolution. Hence, the governor Pilate and his counselors were justified in their concern. They interpreted people’s slogan “Hosanna!” as “Save us” from Roman occupation!

Besides, the Jewish rabbis had been teaching that the final redemption of the Jews would take place with the Messiah’s arrival. With 1½ to 2 million Jews in and around the city for the Passover, the situation was highly volatile, and Jesus’ ride on a donkey, as prophesied by Zechariah, seemed to have all the signs of producing great trouble and revolt. So the Romans informally made allies of some of the Temple priesthood (largely Sadducees), who were planning to arrest Jesus (the suspected center for the trouble), because these priests were the people most closely allied to Rome, and they would lose their power and income in the case of a popular uprising. This collusion between Pilate and the High Priest Caiaphas and their supporters is exactly what we see in the Passion accounts describing the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. Given the political, religious and social context, this is hardly surprising. Keeping that in the back of our minds helps us to make sense of certain parts of the action that will follow. (Fr. Murray from Jerusalem). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Are you a donkey with a Christian name only, or one carrying Christ?

An interesting as well as challenging old fable tells of the colt 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 might have 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.

As we enter Holy Week, today’s readings challenge us to examine our lives to see whether we carry Jesus within us and bear witness to Him through our living or are Christians in name only.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

More of Fr. Tony’s Anecdotes

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Examination of Conscience

by Fr. Tony Kadavil

Life Message: On Palm Sunday, we need to ask ourselves the following six questions, and examine our conscience:

1) Does Jesus weep over me?

There is a Jewish saying, “Heaven rejoices over a repentant sinner and sheds tears over a non-repentant, hardhearted one.”   Are we ready to imitate the prodigal son and return to God, our loving Father, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation during this last week of Lent and participate fully in the joy of Christ’s Resurrection?

2) Am I a barren fig tree?

God expects me to produce fruits of holiness, purity, justice, humility, obedience, charity, and forgiveness.  Do I??  Or, worse, do I continue to produce bitter fruits of impurity, injustice, pride, hatred, jealousy, and selfishness?

3) Will Jesus need to cleanse my heart with His whip? 

Jesus cannot tolerate the desecration of the temple of the Holy Spirit that I have become by my addiction to uncharitable, unjust and impure thoughts words and deeds; nor does Jesus praise my business mentality or calculation of loss and gain in my relationship with God, my Heavenly Father.

4) Do I welcome Jesus into my heart?

Am I ready to surrender my life to Him during this Holy Week and welcome Him into all areas of my life as my Lord and Savior, singing “Hosanna”? Today, we receive palm branches at the Divine Liturgy. Let us take them to our homes and put them in a place where we can always see them. Let the palms remind us that Christ is the King of our families, that Christ is the King of our hearts, and that Christ is the only true answer to our quest for happiness and meaning in our lives. And if we do proclaim Christ as our King, let us try to make time for Him in our daily life; let us be reminded that He is the One with Whom we will be spending eternity. Let us be reminded further that our careers, our education, our finances, our homes, all of the basic material needs in our lives are only temporary. Let us prioritize and place Christ the King as the primary concern in our lives. It is only when we have done this that we will find true peace and happiness in our confused and complex world.

5) Are we ready to become like the humble donkey that carried Jesus?

As we “carry Jesus” to the world, we may receive the same welcome that Jesus received on Palm Sunday, but we may also meet the same opposition, crosses, and trials later.  Like the donkey, we are called upon to carry Christ to a world that does not know Him. Let us always remember that a Christian without Christ is a contradiction in terms.  Such a one betrays the Christian message. Hence, let us become transparent Christians during this Holy Week, enabling others to see in us Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness, and sacrificial service.

6) Can we face these questions on Palm Sunday?

Are we willing to follow Jesus, not just to Church but in our daily life? Are we willing to entrust ourselves to Him even when the future is frightening or confusing, believing God has a plan? Are we willing to serve Him until that day when His plan for us on earth is fulfilled? These are the questions of Palm Sunday. Let us take a fresh look at this familiar event. It could change us forever, because the Passion of Jesus shows us that, though we are sinners who have crucified Jesus, we are able, by His gift, to turn back to Jesus again and ask for his mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is through the Passion of Jesus we receive forgiveness: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Is 53:5)

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