Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord in Year C 2019 at Christ the King Parish, North Rocks
13 April 2019
We have just listened to a very somber account of our Lord’s Passion. It speaks of the worst of human nature, manifested not only by the enemies of Jesus but also by his own disciples. We can recognise our own sinfulness, individually and collectively, that contributes to the suffering of the Body of Christ, in the poor, the dispossessed, the marginalised and our wounded Mother Earth.
Palm Sunday is also about the best of human nature and the revelation of God’s greatest love in Jesus. He is the Suffering Servant in Isaiah – one who resisted all forms of evil and totally faithful to God’s purpose for him. He is the one who humbled himself to the point of accepting death on the cross, thus being the expression of the self-emptying God who gave himself entirely to humanity.
Even though the passion story ends with the cry of abandonment, Jesus shows us that suffering and death born for the sake of others has transformative power. They enable us to enter into communion with the God of love, to expand the boundaries of life even in the here and now.
This is the great paradox that Jesus taught and lived: life is lived fully not by surrendering it to self-survival instincts or the dominating powers. Life is fully lived when it can make a difference to others, that it can transform society and make it into a mirror of God’s Kingdom.
The Gospel is at pains to point out that the way Jesus carried out his mission was fundamentally counter-cultural.
He was a king who rode on the back of the donkey, who mixed with the outcasts and washed the feet of others. He was not a warrior but a peacemaker.
He was not a conqueror through domination and violence but a humble servant through non-violence and justice. In Jesus who surrounds himself with the outcast, we see a God of solidarity and vulnerability.
In Jesus, we meet a God who disturbs our comfort and pushes us out to the periphery to be with the least of his brothers and sisters.
Our entrance into Holy Week calls us to renew our commitment to heal and transform our wounded humanity and broken earth.
God is involved with the pain and suffering of our world. God is involved in our quest for justice, peace and the flourishing of all creation.
The victory of shalom is won by the awesome power of compassionate love, in and through solidarity with those who suffer. It is the precarious existence where we dare to accompany the Samaritans of our time, just like Jesus did before us. For the rough edges of life is where the God of surprises beckons us.
Palm Sunday galvanises us to transformative action, for it gives us a glimpse of the victory of love over hatred and life over death. It was not evil that had the upper hand. It was not injustice, violence and death that had the last word. It was God’s unflinching fidelity, his unconditional love in Jesus that brought about the victory of shalom.
We are therefore encouraged to live more fully, more creatively, more boldly, more at the periphery so that God’s Kingdom of justice may prevail. The triumph of love, the joy of the Gospel spurs us on.
We stand united with one another, with men and women of goodwill in working for the coming of the Kingdom. We stand united with Pope Francis who has given us a strong and prophetic leadership on peace, justice and the care of our common home. He has challenged us to replace indifference with compassion, ignorance with respect and suspicion with love.
In this time of collective soul searching and institutional repentance, we must learn to be more Christlike in our identity and mission. We must learn to stand with the least and the last. We must continue to be a church where all people, especially the most vulnerable can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the Gospel. And as long as we embody that vision of church in our practice, we become a lighthouse for the world.
May we follow the example of the Suffering Servant who shows us the way of disarming hatred with love, evil with goodness, violence with benevolence, indifference with compassion. May our commitment to heal and transform our wounded humanity and our broken earth be brought to fruition in accordance with God’s plan in Christ.