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 2021 at St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie
Readings: Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Matt 27:11-54
28 March 2021
Palm Sunday 2021
It was a Sunday morning exactly a month ago today, Sister Ann, a nun in a simple habit, knelt in tears before a row of police officers and security forces to plead with them stop the violence. This image, from Myanmar, was shared around the world on social media. Many protesters were able to escape from police brutality because of Sr Ann’s solidarity in action. But even more importantly, what she did encapsulated the Christian spirit of love in the face of hatred, strength in gentleness and courage in nonviolence.
Palm Sunday is about the revelation of God’s greatest love in Jesus. He is the Suffering Servant that Isaiah prophesied in the first reading – one who resisted all forms of evil and totally faithful to God’s purpose for him. Similarly, he is the one Paul describes in the second reading as humbling himself to the point of dying on the cross and embodying the self-emptying God.
Even though the passion story ends with tragedy, Jesus shows us that suffering and death born for the sake of others have transformative power. Indeed they lead to new levels of being, living and relating. 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 power but by self-giving love. He was utterly committed to the path of kenosis, of self-emptying, of accepting death and death on the cross. That is also the path of discipleship, the path of the Beatitudes, of love in the face of hatred, joy in weeping, living in dying for others.
The Passion narrative speaks of a man called Barabbas who was chosen by the crowd, over Jesus, to be released by Pontius Pilate in a customary pardon before the Feast of Passover. Barabbas literally means Son of the Father. His name and method suggest that he was an impostor. He adopted a political and military strategy for the restoration of Israel under occupation. Jesus instead chose the way of love, humility, powerlessness and obedience. He was a true Messiah.
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 gives us a glimpse of the victory of love over hatred and life over death. It was God’s unflinching fidelity, his 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.
We stand united with one another, with men and women of good will in working for the coming of the Kingdom. We stand united with Pope Francis who has given us a strong leadership on the care of our suffering brothers and sisters. He inspires us to speak and act in favour of God’s poor for whose cause we will be judged. Pope Francis challenged us to replace indifference with compassion, ignorance with respect and suspicion with love.
The Suffering Servant shows us the way of disarming hatred with love, evil with goodness, violence with benevolence, indifference with compassion. On the street of Yangon, Sr Ann demonstrated in a dramatic and powerful manner that it was possible to choose and act for the good of others. 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 triumph of love, the joy of the Gospel spurs us on.
May we, the followers of the way faithfully and courageously walk with Christ and bring his kingdom to life in our world.