29 March, 2015

Homily for Palm Sunday (B) - Being with Jesus this week

Mark 11:1-11; 15:1-39
Some ‘people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches… Then the crowd were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’ (11:9)
…a few days later, the crowd shouted ‘Crucify him!’ (15:13)

Brian Whelan - Jesus entering Jerusalem
Palm Sunday Mass is the only Mass in which two gospel readings are read. Because of this Palm Sunday Mass is a tale of two halves; in one part we see joy at the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem acclaimed as king, in the other we see betrayal and rejection of Jesus.
See how the crowd welcomes Jesus because they know he is a miracle worker, because they think he is going to bring them wealth. They assume he will grant health and prosperity to the holy city, so they welcome him as king, in fact as the Messiah, the One coming in the name of God to restore the fortunes of Israel. Then, observe how, only a few days later, when it is clear that they are not going to get what they want from Jesus, the crowd shouts repeatedly, ‘Crucify him!’, ‘Crucify him!’ (15:13-14). Jesus does not come to Jerusalem to bring political freedom or freedom from troubles; so, as soon as he does not appear to conform to the expectations of the crowd, they turn their backs on him, they reject him, and they move on to something else. This significant shift in the mood of the people is captured very well in the Passiontide hymn by Samuel Crossman ‘My song is love unknown’ where on verse says,
Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!”
is all their breath,
And for His death
they thirst and cry.

Today, as we are confronted by these two opposite reactions of the crowd, we are not mere spectators of the drama that is unfolding before us. We are not simply rehearsing a play on its appointed yearly date. If we listen closely to the Scriptures, these readings find an echo in the way we live the Christian life, because each of us is at times a tale of two halves – one rejoicing in Jesus, the other one not so much.
Committing ourselves to the Christian life and following Jesus is a source of profound joy for us all – or at least it should be! However, sometimes joy doesn’t seem to stick, and when this happens, we become lukewarm towards everything – if not a little resentful. Like the Jerusalem crown we are eager to seek Jesus when the demands of faith are light and the feelings of the moment bring us comfort. But is it the same when the daily business of Christian life requires more from us; when we do not seem to get what we want from church services? Do we continue to be with Jesus when we can count more doubts than certainties? So then, at these times, don’t we behave just like that crowd – quickly turning our back on Jesus and on his Church?

This Holy Week we are asked to draw close to Jesus as we relive the solemn moments of his Passover. There will be lots of church services, many occasions to be together to celebrate key moment on our journey with Jesus to Calvary and to the empty tomb. So we have a choice set before us; either to behave like committed Christians and make Church worship a priority above all else, or to behave like the Jerusalem crowd – celebrating this morning and then turn our back on the Church until it suits us more. Ultimately, the choice – being with Jesus this week or turning away – is up to each of us. 

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Jesus entering Jerusalem is painted by Brian Whelan. The picture was part of an installation by the painter at St Ia’s Church, St Ives, over the summer of 2014.

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