Hi everyone, here’s my homily for PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION – APRIL 13, 2014 – The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/041314.cfm. As always thanks for reading, sharing this blog on reddit, Twitter and Facebook- and your feedback and comments are always appreciated. May you have a blessed Holy Week – Fr. Jim
This past Wednesday, Newman Catholic along with the Council for Faith and Spirituality and Residence Life here at Montclair State co-sponsored a special program called “The Gospel of Mark.” For lack of a better description it was basically a one man show – where the actor (an MSU Theatre Alum from the Class of 2011) in about 2 hours performed the entire Gospel of Mark in an engaging, interactive and very dramatic way. It was a truly amazing and moving experience. Philip Corso, the actor, had to move at times from being story teller/narrator (somewhat assuming the role of St. Mark) to different characters or groups of people that are featured in Mark’s account to portraying Jesus himself.
At the end of what had to have been an exhaustive performance, Philip generously gave us members of the audience some time for questions and answers. It was fascinating to hear his perspective about how it is for him “performing” this piece – the different feelings and emotions that go into it. One discussion really stood out for me. An audience member noted how the actor had to assume different roles at different times and asked why the choice was made for him to approach the Passion and Death narrative as the narrator to the proceedings rather than as Christ himself. He expressed legitimate concerns about how it could come across to the audience, the challenges artistically that it would present and then he said something that really hit me. Something along the lines of – that part of the story is so gruesome, really, who wants to be Jesus?
The more I thought about that – the more I thought – how true is that? Who would want to be Jesus? Sure there are elements of Jesus’ life that we think would be pretty amazing. Performing pretty amazing miracles like healing someone of a debilitating illness; feeding multitudes, thousands of people from just a few loaves and fishes – that would be cool (imagine how many swipes you and your friends could save at the Cafeteria) – raising people from the dead: who wouldn’t want to have the ability to do that.
But who wants to be Jesus –
when he is betrayed;
when people (including those who knew him and purportedly loved and followed him) lied about him
when he is persecuted;
when he is mocked and ridiculed;
when he is tortured;
when he is wounded;
when he is savagely, brutally attacked;
when he is crucified;
when he is abandoned and left for dead…
No one wants to be Jesus during that. Yet, if we are honest – if we reflect – if we allow ourselves to lower our defenses and the walls that we are so often good at erecting – who of us hasn’t? Who hasn’t gone through at least some of those, if not all of those experiences? Who hasn’t to some extent felt the chaos, the torment, the absolute darkness that this, Jesus’ Passion speaks to us?
We don’t want to be Jesus – and there’s a part of us that sincerely believes that We don’t want those things to happen to Jesus – but Palm Sunday of Jesus’ Passion forces us to be really honest and look at not only our own pain and brokenness but also the pain and brokenness we can commit to one another. That we move from being with the crowds crying Hosanna on one day to “Crucify Him” a few days later — when we commit our sins, when we withhold compassion, love and mercy on one another, when we reject God whether overtly or subconsciously as we decide to go and do our own thing…
The good news is that Jesus’ love is strong enough to enter into our human pain to accompany us in our pain.
The good news is that the things that weigh us down, that sadden us and frighten us in the deepest recesses of our hearts: namely the sins that we’ve committed which are demonstrated in those wounds, those nails, those thorns inflicted on Jesus – yes they are real and painful and destructive – but they are not strong enough to cause Jesus to stop loving you and me.
May you and I have the courage to recognize the reality of these painful things in our lives to let Jesus into them. To truly embrace the cross, embrace the love of Christ. To want to become Jesus – knowing that when we do, he walks with us in our darkness, he leads us out of it into newness of life.