Friday, March 30, 2012

Homily: Palm Sunday ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily: Palm Sunday ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Processional Readings ABC: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10 and Luke 19:28-40.
Christ’s Humble Entrance into Jerusalem,

Every year the Church celebrates Palm Sunday which ends the Lenten Season and marks the beginning of the most Holy week in our Christian Liturgy.  It is a week our savior will be exalted on the Cross. It is a week of that hour of glory come to fulfillment. This  is the week Christ, our Lord and Savior will be betrayed, falsely accused, plotted against (John 11:45-53), arrested (Matt 26:47-56), interrogated by Annas, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin ( Matt 26:57-58), tried by Pilate ( Matt 27:1-14), denied by Peter( Matt 26:59-66), mocked and executed in a Roman way ( Matt 27:15-56).  It is a week Christ will draw all people to himself, Jews and the Gentiles, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (John 12:32). It is a Holy and Salvific Week for us; a week of grace; a week of victory over death and injustice, lies and hatred; a week we see new life in the death of Christ. It is a teaching week for our religious communities, families and homes.

It is a week we also learn to resist evil not with violence, not by chopping off “Malchus’ ear,” but with prayer, endurance and through peaceful process of dialogue and reconciliation. A week we learn not to act like Pilate, remaining indifferent to truth nor being in a hurry to condemn our neighbors, brothers and sisters, friends and children. It is a week each of us is invited to the foot of the Cross, a week Mary will be handed over to us the faithful disciples of Christ (John 19:25ff). Our nations in unnecessary political divides can also learn from this week.

Usually before the principal Mass our palms which will be turned into ashes for “renewal” next year are blessed. A moment from now we shall reenact the Gospel story we have just heard from Matthew 21:1-11. Like those ordinary people, those pilgrims in the street of Jerusalem (those men, women and children) who gave Christ a royal welcome to Jerusalem for his paschal mystery we are also prepared in our pilgrimage  to embrace Christ with enthusiasm, to welcome him into our lives in the Eucharist we are about to celebrate today. Through the  “Hosanna” (Psalm 118:26; Mk 11:1-10 and Luke 19:28-40) we sing we shall be inviting Christ, Son of David, the King of Israel to “save” us, to come into our lives, into our homes, offices, parish communities and families.

Again from that Gospel (s) Reading (s), He is a humble King, a King of Peace, riding on a donkey instead of a horse. Remember at the time of David and Prophet Zechariah (cf 9:9) the donkey had been a sign of kingship, but later an animal for the poor, while the horses came to represent the might of the mighty. Christ today presents us the image of a King of peace arriving Jerusalem on a donkey not on a bullet and nuclear proof presidential Limousine.

With this we are reminded not only of Christ’s humility, his identification with the poor, but also his fearlessness, his prophetic courage to conquer death even death on a cross.
Let us now with enthusiasm go forth in peace, praising Jesus our Messiah, and welcoming him like the Jerusalem multitude!



Palm Sunday Homily at Mass ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Readings: Isa 50:4-7; Ps 22:8-9, 17-18,19-20,23-24; Phil 2: 6-11 and Matt 26:14–27:66 (A); Mk 14:1–15:47 (B) and Luke 22: 14–23:56

The Victory of Christ’s Death

After the blessings of the palms and the procession into the Church on Palm Sundays the readings especially the long passion narratives (from Matt 26-27; Mk 14-15; Lk 22-23 or John 18-19) are sometimes always very challenging to comment on, depending on the given worshiping community-dioceses, Seminaries, Schools and Religious Houses.

Some preachers would focus on Judas’ terrible behavior of betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and his regret afterward (Matt 26:47-56; 27:3; Mk 14:43-50; Lk 22:47-53 and John 18:1-11), challenging us to be loyal and faithful to one another. Others might want to contemplate on the significance of Peter’s weaknesses, the denial of his Master, his reaction to Malchus, the misappropriation of power by the Jewish leaders and his opponents. Others still may want to reflect on the role of Pilate in Jesus’ trial; His indifferent to truth and justice. Pilate prefers to release Bandit Barabbas in instead of the innocent Jesus!

Whatever strikes your from today’s liturgy and scriptures we do not want to lose sight of the person and the figure of Christ and his  Love for us to the end (John 13:1), by going to the Cross to die for each and every one ( John 3:16). Going to the cross was not a defeat but a victory when we think of how Christ managed those false charges against him and his appearances before his enemies, Jewish authorities”; Annas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin and the Roman Tribunal, the soldiers, police officers, Gentile and Jews, secular and religious leaders. All along Christ is ironically in control of events.

Like the Isaiah’s Suffering Servant (Isa 50:4-7 cf. 42:1-4; 49:1-6 and 52:13–53:12), he handled it patiently with wisdom and humility, “he gave his back and cheek to those who slapped and plucked his beard. He withstood those spitting and mockery for his love for us.

He handled his persecution as a true and peaceful King, a Hero and true Messiah who knew his “hour” of glory was up. Christ would even forgive his persecutors (Lk 22: 14–23:56). Remember, in the garden before his arrest he did not resist his enemies. Rather when he asked the troops Judas had brought “whom they were looking for” they all staggered and fell to the ground’ (John 18:1-11). The divinity of Christ is insurmountable by satanic powers.

He taught Peter, at Malchus’ incidence; of course each and every one of us that violent, personal, or institutional, is never a dignified way to do things or to resolve our differences.  He said, “Peter put your sword back into its Sheath (cf Mk 14:47; Matt 26:51; Lk 22:50 and John 18:10). Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me”?; the cup of the Cross and the cup of the Resurrection (Mk 14:36;Matt 26:39; Lk 22:42 and John 18:11)

In the Praetorium before Judge Pilate, Jesus became the one Judging Pilate against his ignorance of the meaning of the Truth. Giving up his Spirit the veil of the Old Temple was torn from top to bottom, because the Christ the new Temple had not only cleanse the Temple at his entrance into Jerusalem but had divinely promised to destroy and rebuild it in three days (John 2:9).

This brings to mind what Pope Benedict XVI once said, in his Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Week: From Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, pp. 11-23); that, “the crucifixion of Jesus reminds us of the destruction of the old Temple, his resurrection a rebuilding of a new worship of God in the Spirit of truth, love, forgiveness and endurance.”

Similarly, Saint Paul notices Christ’s teaching endurance and His exalted cross when he says he says in the Second Reading,

“Christ Jesus though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, something to be grasped…he became obedient to death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-11).

We do like Paul also notice the legacy of love Christ handed to us- the more reason we are not tired, but have come together, gathered in our parishes/seminaries and religious communities to celebrate this day. Thousands of people, men, women, seniors and children, attorneys and physicians, philosophers and theologians, factory workers and business men and women of diverse cultural and political background. Doesn’t it remind us of the women at foot of the Cross, the Beloved Disciples? What about the Gentile Roman Soldiers and other Jews like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea  who went asking for the body of Jesus for a kingly anointing and speedy royal burial in a new tomb that had been hewn in a rock (Matt 27:57-61; Mk 15:42-47; Lk 23:50-56 and John 19:38-42).  The tomb was never going to be the final destination of Christ. It all comes to fulfill the victory of the cross and what Christ had said that, when he will be lifted up on the cross he will draw everyone to himself (John 3:14; 8:28 and 12:31-32).

As we walk through this Holy Week may we see it as a Holy and a Saving Week; a Week of grace of victory of life over death? Let us not only focus on the weaknesses of Judas, Peter, Pilate and other disciples who betrayed, denied and  fled the suffering and the trial scenes of Christ. But with God’s grace we want to imitate the teaching endurance of the Kingly Christ, a King of Peace and Love with the faithful examples of those women, men, the Beloved Disciples at the foot of the Cross, by uniting our sufferings, our illnesses, our setbacks, the mockeries we experience in life with the Exalted Cross of Christ and with the victory of the Resurrection.