Saturday, March 19, 2016

Homily[3] 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 Humbles Himself to the Cross!

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.  This Week is not different from Holy Weeks of previous years, except that this year is a different year with perhaps different kinds of blessings and socio- political and religious challenges! It is a Holy Week in a Year  of Mercy. Even with these blessings and challenges this week fundamentally remains a week that Christ our savior will clean Jerusalem of her ills and 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 find life in the death of Christ. It is a teaching week for our religious communities, families and homes.

 In this week we learn to resist evil not with violence, not by chopping off “Malchus’ ear,” but with prayer, endurance, peaceful dialogue and reconciliation.  It is 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. This is week re-invites us to the foot of the Cross, when Mary will be handed over to us, as our mother and the mother of the Church (John 19:25ff).

The Palms we have in our hands will be blessed. With these palms we will like those ordinary people, those pilgrims in the street of Jerusalem (those men, women and children) spread them and welcome Christ to Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-40). As Christ comes into Jerusalem we want to embrace him with enthusiasm, and with our whole heart, mind and soul as we participate in the Holy Eucharist.  Also through the  “Hosanna” (Psalm 118:26; Mk 11:1-10 and Luke 19:28-40) we  chant today, Christ the Son of David, the King of Israel  is invited to “save” us, to come into our lives, into our homes, offices, parish communities and families, with his love and mercy, especially in this year of mercy.

No wonder he rides on a donkey not on a horse, not on a presidential limousine, not on a bullet proof vehicle, but on a donkey, an animal for the poor. With it he teaches us humility, love and solidarity with the poor, a message that Pope Francis emphasis over and over again. Though he was the Son of God, Christ humble himself, even to the Cross in Calvary, in Jerusalem!

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

Christ's Victory Over Death
Today as other years we celebrate a Holy Week, a Palm Sunday- a week of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem to generously die and defeat the Cross, on our behalf. The difference this year might be that this is the Year… 2016, a New Jerusalem. A Year the Holy Father, Pope Francis has rightly named a Year of Mercy- with different socio-political and economic challenges with different forms of responsibilities, in our times, in our New Jerusalem!

 In the light of today’s Scriptures, this week remains for us a teaching week of Christ’s Love, in our New Jerusalem, in our times. Palm Sunday week is a week Christ generously went to the Jerusalem Cross with great success. Christ triumphed on the cross because he humbled himself. He knew how to manage false accusations and charges against him. He manages it with patience, smiles, and endurance.  He knew how to manage the challenges of his time- of his Jerusalem! He bore his sufferings patiently.

The Christ of the Gospels is that Suffering Servant long foretold in today’s first reading (Isa 50:4-7 (cf. 42:1-4; 49:1-6 and 52:13–53:12). In Isaiah, the Suffering Servant of God handled himself patiently with wisdom and humility in exile. He gave his back and cheek to those who slapped and plucked his beard in Babylon. He withstood those spitting and mockery for the love of his people the Israelites, the chosen people.

 Christ would do the same, before those Jewish and Romans elites who persecuted him; who mocked him; who spitted on him, who slapped him.  As Saint Paul would put it in his Letter to the Philippians (Phil 2:6-11), though he was in the form of God, when frustrated he obediently prayed Psalm 22, “my God my God why have you abandoned me.” He did not count equality with God. He patiently relied on God his father to deliver him.

 With our God’s given talents, and blessings,  the question for us today is, when frustrated or challenged with illnesses, set-backs, loss of our loved ones, to whom do we turn? Do we rely on the help of God to deliver us---  from such frustrations including--- poverty, ignorance, malice, jealousy, laziness, covetousness, and indifference over the plight of the poor, the less-privileged, the weak, and the aged?

  Or are we prepared to be like those who lined the street of Jerusalem to welcome Christ, on Palm Sunday. Are we ready to welcome Christ the Messiah in our homes, communities and families? Are we ready to allow Christ to clean Jerusalem, our nations, our politics and our governments?   What about following the examples those women who stood on the foot of the Cross. What about our imitating the Beloved Disciples, those Gentiles, those Jews, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea  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 but his saving resurrection. 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 and a Week of Divine Mercy, Peace and Love!