Palm Sunday (C)

FR TONY'S HOMILYRCIA LESSONSFAITH FORMATION LESSONS

Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily


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PASSION OF CHRIST (1:19) – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus in Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ.

“The True Image”

Fr. Tony’s Homilies

The Church celebrates this sixth Sunday of Lent as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. This is the time of year we stop to remember and relive the events which brought about our redemption and salvation. What we commemorate and relive during this week is not just Jesus’ dying and rising, but our own dying and rising in Jesus, which will result in our healing, reconciliation, and redemption. Attentive participation in the Holy Week liturgy will deepen our relationship with God, increase our Faith, and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus. Today’s liturgy combines contrasting moments, one of glory, the other of suffering: the royal welcome of Jesus in Jerusalem, and the drama of the trial, culminating in the crucifixion, death, and burial of the Christ.

HOMILY ANECDOTE

Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

in Mel Gibson’s  movie, The Passion of the Christ, the actress who imitated the actions of St. Veronica had a conversion experience, right there in the midst of filming the scene.  Sabrina Impacciatore is an Italian actress and although she had grown up Catholic, she had long ago stopped practicing her Faith.  At the time when they began filming, she was at a spiritual low point in her life.  She later explained that she really wanted to believe in Jesus, but she just couldn’t do it. Her scene in the movie is quite memorable… Sabrina said it was a very hard scene to film.  The churning crowd kept bumping into her and disrupting the moment of intimacy.  And so they had to film it over and over again.  Twenty times they had to film it before getting it right. And that was providential.  Because after twenty times of kneeling before the suffering Christ, looking into his eyes, and calling him Lord, the actress felt something start to melt inside her.  She wasn’t seeing the actor pretending to be our Lord; she was seeing our Lord himself.  Later, she explained that while she looked into his eyes, she found that she was able to believe.  “For a moment,” she said, “I believed!”

The name Veronica comes from the two words vera and icon and these two words mean true image.   This true image refers to the image of Jesus’ face that was left on the cloth that was used to wipe his face.  This relic is kept at the Vatican and scientists can’t explain it.  Vera icon, the true image, eventually became Veronica, the name given to the anonymous woman who loved Jesus.  As Christians all of us are supposed to be a Veronica, a true icon, a true image of Jesus.  As we enter into Holy Week, like Sabrina that actress, like St. Veronica herself, let us look into the eyes of our Lord, giving ourselves to him in all things,  praying for the grace not to be afraid to love … not be afraid to bring Him all of our sins, to bring to him our hurts, our doubts, our troubles, our hardness of hearts, our everything. … trusting Him in everything.  In doing this our Lord will transform us, making us into a true image of Himself.

MORE HOMILY ANECDOTES

Fr. Tony's Homily

Readings Summarized

First Reading

Today’s first reading, the third of Isaiah’s four Servant Songs, like the other three, foreshadows Jesus’ own life and mission.

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Additional insights on the First Reading from Fr. Tony

In the middle section of the book of the prophet Isaiah, chapters 40-55, there are four short passages which scholars have called the Songs of the Suffering Servant. Today’s first reading is the third Servant Song. These four songs are about a mysterious figure whose suffering brings about a benefit for the people. In the original author’s mind, the servant was probably a figure for the people of Israel, or for a faithful remnant within the people. The Songs portrayed the antithesis of Israel’s messianic expectations, because Israel expected a triumphant Messiah while the prophet foresaw a “suffering servant” Messiah. Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs, and the Church refers to them in this time of solemn meditation on the climax of Jesus’ earthly life. These songs foretell Jesus’ conscious and active choice to remain faithful to his saving mission no matter what the cost: “I have not … turned back” and “I gave my back to those who beat me.” The kingship of Jesus was to mean suffering and humiliation, not just publicity and grandeur. In today’s Responsorial Psalm, (Ps 22), the Psalmist puts his trust in Yahweh for deliverance and salvation. The context of this day’s worship also conveys Jesus’ confidence in God’s protection in the midst of His trial and crucifixion. The passage encourages us to be companions of Jesus in suffering by offering our own sufferings in union with the redemptive sufferings of Christ, so that we may become collaborators in that suffering. The passage also challenges us to accept what we cannot change, so that we may endure the difficulty for as long as it is necessary, just as Christ did. (Personal application of the suffering servant prophecy: It is speaking to you and me on at least two levels. First, we meditate on the prophet’s words, and recognize how much suffering Jesus went through for our salvation. Such meditation can only lead us to love him more and to desire that our will accord with his will at all times. Now at another level, we put ourselves into that prophetic scene. Wherever we see the word “I” or “me” we change that by inserting our own first name. In this way we will see that the Lord is calling us to imitate him. It can be an “aha” moment for us, a sudden understanding and a sudden call for a decision).


Responsorial Psalm

The Refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 22),”My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?” plunges us into the heart of Christ’s Passion.


Second Reading

The Second Reading, taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, is an ancient Christian hymn representing a very early Christian understanding of who Jesus is, and of how his mission saves us from sin and death.

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Additional insights on the Second Reading from Fr. Tony

This section of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is an ancient Christological hymn representing a very early Christian understanding of Who Jesus is and how his mission saves us from sin and death. It is a message that Paul received from those who had been converted to Christ. It is a summary of ‘the great mysteries of our redemption,’ and it rightly serves as a preview of the events of Holy Week. It describes how Jesus, though Son of God, emptied himself’”of divine glory and took the form of a man like us in all things except sin. Out of love and obedience, he willingly accepted his death, “even death on a cross.” Because Jesus humbled himself and did not cling to any of his special privileges as God’s Son, “God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above all names.” We are called to have the same attitude of humility and obedience as Christ our Lord had. Christians reading this passage today are joining the first people who ever pondered the meaning of Jesus’ life and mission. We’re singing their song and reciting their creed during this special time of the year, when we remember the most important things Our Lord did. God humbled himself for us! Jesus’ triumph was his self-giving on the cross to open for us the road to the Father. All we can do in response is to bow our heads in awe, and present our loving, contrite hearts to God, begging for mercy. God wants our heart to be humbled, contrite, and truly repentant because only is that condition is it open, and so able, to receive His Mercy and His Love.


Gospel

The first part of today’s Gospel describes the royal reception Jesus received from his admirers, who paraded with him for a distance of the two miles between the Mount of Olives and the city of Jerusalem.

In the second part of today’s Gospel, we listen to/participate in a reading of the Passion of Christ according to Luke. We are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the Passion story – like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Herod who ridiculed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience as he condemned Jesus to death on the cross, and the leaders of the people who preserved their position by getting rid of Jesus.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

The first part of today’s Gospel (Lk 19:28-40) describes the royal reception which Jesus received from his admirers. They paraded with him for two miles: from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. Two-and-a-half million people were normally present to celebrate the Jewish feast of the Passover. Jesus permitted such a royal procession for two reasons: 1) to reveal to the public that he was the promised Messiah, and 2) to fulfill the prophecies of Zechariah (9:9): “Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion…. see now your King comes to you; he is victorious, triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey…”), and Zephaniah (3:16-19): “Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty Savior … He will … renew you in His love … I will save the lameand assemble the outcasts … I will bring about their restoration.” (The traditional “Palm Sunday Procession” at Jerusalem began in the fourth century AD when the Bishop of Jerusalem led the procession from the Mount of Olives to the Church of the Ascension)

In the second part of today’s Gospel (Lk 22:14—23:56; or 23:1-49), we listen to/participate in the Passion of Christ according to Luke We are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the story like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience and condemned Jesus, Herod who ridiculed Jesus, and the leaders of the people who preserved their position by getting rid of Jesus.


Special features of Luke’s passion narrative

1) St. Luke in his Gospel presents Jesus as ‘the Savior of mankind.’ So, in his passion narrative too, he stresses that Jesus suffered and died to save mankind. This, then, is not just the tragic story of one man; this is a story of a Savior who is fulfilling a mission.

2) From the outset, St. Luke also establishes Jesus’ death as an ‘innocent’ martyr who was betrayed, denied, and abandoned by friends, unjustly charged by a frenzied mob, led by threatened religious leaders and abetted by weaseling politicians. Only in St. Luke’s narrative does Pilate pronounce Jesus’ innocence three times. Again, only St. Luke has Herod declaring Jesus’ innocence. We also notice the centurion’s statement, “Surely, this was an innocent man.” Even one of the criminals crucified with Jesus attests his innocence, “We are only paying the price for what we’ve done, but this man has done nothing wrong.”

3) St. Luke also affirms the fact that the ‘forgiving’ power of God was already at work in Jesus before his death. His enemies humiliate him, strike him, scourge him. Soldiers make a crown with thorns, a crown for the ‘King of the Jews,’ Herod mocks him. Through it all there is Jesus and for his part, he does not strike back, he does not scold, he does not accuse or blame. At every turn in this tangled web, in response to every individual and the crowds who caused his suffering and death, Jesus forgives! Most remarkably, Jesus is ready to forgive his executioners, and, on the cross, he forgives those who are putting him to death and promises paradise to one of the criminals who died with him who has asked, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Another wonder is his capacity in suffering to go out to others: to ‘turn towards’ the women of Jerusalem, to acknowledge their grief, and to express his own concern for them.

4) Finally, right from the beginning of his ministry in the synagogue of Nazareth till his death on the cross at Calvary, Jesus is Spirit-filled’ and he is always in union with God through ‘prayer.‘ The Lukan Jesus is the rejected prophet, but he is the one who trusts utterly in God. Jesus seems to be the victim, but all through, he is in fact, the master. He is master of the situation because he is master of himself. We notice, St. Luke’s depiction of Jesus at prayer on the Mount of Olives lays less stress on his being troubled and sorrowful and more on his union with God. Indeed, his prayer to his Father is answered in the form of an angel sent to strengthen him. This strength saw him through to the end, so that, just before he died Jesus prays, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”


Notes on Palm Sunday events

1) Jesus rides on a lowly donkey: Doesn’t it seem odd that Jesus would walk 90 miles from the Galilee to Bethany and then secure a donkey for the final two miles to JerusalemIn those days, Kings used to travel in such processions on horseback during wartime but preferred to ride a donkey in times of peace. I Kings 1:38-41 describes how Prince Solomon used his father David’s royal donkey for the ceremonial procession on the day of his coronation. Jesus entered the Holy City as a King of Peace, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah. The Gospel specifically mentions that the colt Jesus selected for the procession was one that had not been ridden before, reminding us of a stipulation given in I Samuel 6:7 concerning the animal that was to carry the Ark of the Covenant.

2) The mode of reception given: Jesus was given a royal reception usually reserved for a king or military commander. I Mc 13:51ff describes such a reception given to the Jewish military leader Simon Maccabaeus in 171 BC. II Mc 0:6-8 refers to a similar reception given to another military general, Judas Maccabaeus, who led the struggle against the Greek Seleucid Emperor, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and liberated the Temple from pagan control in 163 BC.

3) The slogans used: The participants sang the “Hallel” psalm (Psalm 118), and shouted the words of Psalms 25 and 26. The Greek word “hosiana” originally meant “save us now” (II Sm 14:4). The people sang the entire Psalm 118 on the Feast of the Tabernacles when they marched seven times around the Altar of the Burnt Offering. On Palm Sunday, however, the people used the prayer “Hosanna” as a slogan of greeting. It meant “God save the king of Israel.”

4) The symbolic meaning of the Palm Sunday procession: Nearly 25,000 lambs were sacrificed during the feast of the “Pass Over,” but the lamb which was sacrificed by the High Priest was taken to the Temple in a procession four days before the main feast day. On Palm Sunday, Jesus, the true Paschal Lamb, was also taken to the Temple in a large procession.

5) Reaction of Jesus: Before the beginning of the procession, Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Lk 19:41-42), and when the procession was over, he cleansed the Temple (Lk 19:45-46). On the following day, he cursed a barren fig tree. Jesus cursed a fig tree for lying with its leaves. It looked good from the outside, but there was nothing there. Surely, he must have intended a reference to the Temple. The religious folk of his day were impotent and infertile. They had taken a good thing, religion, and made it into a sham.

Fr. Tony's Homily

APPLICATION

Life messages

Choose as many as time allows

We need to answer 5 questions today

1) Does Jesus weep over my sinful soul as he wept over Jerusalem at the beginning of his Palm Sunday procession?

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 (which I have become), by my addiction to uncharitable, unjust, 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? Let us remember that we are all sinners who have crucified Jesus by our sins, but we are still able to turn to Jesus again to ask for pardon and mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is through the Passion of Jesus that we receive forgiveness: “with His stripes we are healed.” (Is 53:5).

5) Are we like the humble donkey that carried Jesus, bringing Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness, and sacrificial service to our families, places of work, and communities by the way we live our lives?


We need to welcome Jesus into our hearts in a special way during the Holy Week

We must be ready to surrender our lives to Jesus during this Holy Week and welcome Him into all areas of our life as our 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 remember 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.

End of homily

Fr. Tony's Homily

Jokes of the Week
At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, or congregations.

1) Little Johnny was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from Church with his mother. His father returned from Church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked, “Why do you have that palm branch, Dad?” His father explained, “You see, when Jesus came into town, everyone waved palm branches to honor Him; so we got palm branches today.” “Aw, shucks,” grumbled Little Johnny. “The one Sunday I can’t go to Church, and Jesus shows up!”

2) The king on a donkey! Some of you heard my story about the husband and the wife who had quarreled. It had been a pitched battle of wills, each digging heels in to preserve the position each had vehemently taken. Emotions had run high. As they were driving to attend a family wedding in a distant city, both were nursing hurt feelings in defensive silence. The angry tension between them was so thick you could cut it with a knife. But, then the silence was broken. Pointing to a donkey standing in a pasture out beside the road, the husband sarcastically asked, “Relative of yours?” The wife quickly replied, “By marriage!”

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