Mar 16, 2008

Homily for Palm Sunday, Year A - Given at Cronulla on March 16, 2008

Readings: Is 50: 4-7; Philippi 2: 6-11; Matthew: 21: 1-11 (Procession) and Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 (Passion)


An old fable tells of the donkey that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday.  The donkey got up the next morning,  with the afterglow of the most exciting day of his life. Never before had he felt such a rush of pleasure and pride. He walked into town and found a group of people by the well. “I’ll show myself to them,” he thought. But they didn’t notice him. They went on drawing water and ignored him. “Throw your garments down,” the donkey said crossly. “Don’t you know who I am?” They just looked at him in amazement. Someone slapped him across the tail and ordered him to move. “Miserable heathens!” he muttered to himself. “I’ll just go to the market where people will remember me.” But the same thing happened. No one paid any attention to the donkey as he elegantly walked down the main street in the market place. “Where are the palm branches!” he shouted. “Yesterday, you threw palm branches for me!” The people beat him and drove him away. Hurt and confused, the donkey returned home to his mother. “Foolish child,” the mother said gently. “Don’t you realize that without Jesus, you are just an ordinary donkey?”


Just like the donkey that carried Jesus to Jerusalem, we are only fulfilled when we are in the service of Jesus Christ. Without him, all our best efforts are like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). When we serve Christ, when we serve the great King, we are no longer ordinary people, but key players in God’s plan to redeem the world.


Today’s we read two gospels. The first gospel was at the beginning of the Mass and we heard the story of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Later in the Mass we read the Passion. To save the passion for Good Friday, I will today speak today about Palm Sunday.


The Palm Sunday Gospel describes the royal reception, which Jesus received from his admirers, who paraded with him for a distance of two miles: from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. Jewish historians estimate that two and a half million people were normally present in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feast of the Passover. Faithful Jews would travel from all parts of the world to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem.


Jesus permitted such a royal procession for two reasons:

1) to reveal to the general public that he was the promised Messiah, the King of Peace and

2) in order to fulfill the prophecies of Zechariah (9:9) and Zephaniah (3: 16-19):   “Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion…. see now your king comes to you; he is victorious, triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey…” (Zech. 9:9).


I have often heard people claim that Jesus rode on a donkey because he was humble. But riding on the donkey has far more significance than humility.

At the time of Christ and before Christ, kings used to travel in processions on horseback only during wartime, but they preferred to ride a donkey in times of peace. 

The Book of I Kings 1: 38-41 describes how Prince Solomon used his father David’s royal donkey for the 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 donkey 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. 


Jesus is the king who brings peace. Jesus brings peace to our world and Jesus brings peace in the relationship between God and humanity.

During the Passover Feast in Jerusalem, nearly 25,000 lambs were sacrificed every year, but the lamb which was sacrificed by the high priest was taken to the temple in a triumphal 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.


My friends, are we ready to become like the humble donkey that carried Jesus?   As we "carry Jesus" to the world, we can expect to receive the same welcome that Jesus received  at first on  Palm Sunday, but we must also expect to meet opposition, crosses and trials. 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 person betrays the Christian message and name. Like the donkey, we do not have glory because of our own actions, but we have glory because of Christ, the King of Peace.

Let us become transparent Christians during this Holy week, let others see Jesus in us, let others see the love of God, unconditional forgiveness, and sacrificial service in us.


Christ rode on a donkey. Christ is the King of Peace. Christ is the Lamb of Sacrifice.


During this week, reflect on your life. Make a special effort to become a living and walking image of Christ, the King of Peace.


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