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 B 2018 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
25 March 2018
With the celebration of Palm Sunday, we have entered Holy Week and our Lenten journey has reached a crescendo. At the heart of Holy Week is the hour that Jesus has spoken about; this is the climax to the life of a humble Messiah who came to serve and not to be served; the prophet who resisted all forms of evil; and the Servant of God who was totally committed to the divine project.
On this day, the forces of evil and darkness seem to have had the upper hand. The cry of Jesus on the cross says it all “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”.
But it was not evil that had the upper hand. Rather, it was love that was shown in Jesus to be stronger than hatred, light stronger than darkness and grace stronger than sin. Even though the passion story ends with tragedy and the cry of abandonment, Jesus shows that suffering and death are the necessary part of the Paschal rhythm. It was the great paradox that he had taught throughout his life.
As we gather to begin Holy Week, we are strengthened by the example of Jesus who never ceased to give himself for the life of others. Paul speaks of the self-emptying journey of Christ from the crib to the cross. In him, we meet God who abandoned his own security and entered our fragile world; we see God who made himself poor in order to enrich us. Our Christian discipleship is patterned on the self-emptying journey of Christ.
The theme of our World Youth Day 2019 that Pope Francis gave us is celebrating the great things God has done. When Mary sings “the Almighty has done great things for me”, she identifies herself with the lowly whom God has raised up. She recognises that by emptying herself, she is filled with the gifts and the fullness of God.
It is the pattern of self-emptying or the Paschal rhythm of dying and rising that we are called to follow even as a whole Church. Thus, the pain of losing or dying in the wake of the Royal Commission can indeed be a time of grace. If we learn to empty of all those things that are contrary to the Gospel, we can be sure of being filled with the great things God has in store for us moving forward. Let the spirit of self-emptying permeate our lives and the life of the Church.
Our entrance into Holy Week calls us to renew our commitment to be involved in the challenges and struggles of our world. God is involved with the pain and suffering of our world. God is involved in our quest for justice and peace. God calls us to a new vision of life, mercy, and redemption. Christ crucified and risen, the Wisdom of God, manifests the truth that divine justice and renewing power transforms the world. The victory of shalom is won by the awesome power of compassionate love, in and through solidarity with those who suffer.
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 God’s unconditional love in Jesus that brought about the victory of shalom. We are therefore encouraged to work and turn the tide in favour of the least of our brothers and sisters, confident that the Kingdom of God will prevail.
The Suffering Servant shows us the way of disarming hatred with love, evil with goodness, violence with benevolence, indifference with compassion. May we, the followers of the way faithfully and courageously walk with Christ and bring His kingdom to life in our world.