The cross is by far the most complex, complicated, and confusing of signs that humanity has ever encountered. Most religious traditions describe a sense of the might, the power, the dominion of the divine over what is human. For our elder brothers and sisters of the covenant, our Jewish ancestors, that was certainly the case:
+The Lord God created everything.
+ He banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden; destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah; sent the flood waters that Noah and his family would escape all because of sin…
+ He called the Jewish people to be uniquely His own people. Making a covenant with them to make them His chosen people. He accomplished that by leading them out of Egyptian slavery with mighty acts and deeds: the plagues and then the parting of the Red Sea.
+ He gave them His law, and His commandments as a way of expressing their love for Him and to live in harmony as His family with one another.
Thanks so much for stopping by to read my homily for PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION – April 2, 2023, for sharing it on your social media posts and your feedback and comments… I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing- Father Jim
These were the moments that the most faithful of Jews carried in their hearts for centuries. Yet, they recognized their continued failures to truly follow the law kept leading to their not living in the promised land, not living in God’s Kingdom, and instead being lost in the wilderness. These stories, which were their stories though, were coupled with God’s promises spoken through His prophets. Promises of the coming of a Messiah who would at last set all things right. That kept their hopes alive through continued oppression, exile, and slavery for centuries.
Everything they knew of the Lord God had been great and grand – yet their history proved over and over again of being unable to live up to God’s expectations. They tried – maniacally at times, to follow the law perfectly thinking that only when they did would the Messiah finally appear. But the Old Testament is a big book to navigate through. There are lots in those 46 books that cover a lot of time. There’s history, there’s poetry, and there’s a lot of laws. How to navigate it all and perfectly proved impossible. At the heart of it all, what’s the most important part?
The scholars, leaders, and teachers of His day who struggled (and in many cases failed) to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, asked Him that exact question. As they had been waiting and waiting to be saved, argued over why it had not happened and what they needed to do, they asked Jesus: Teacher which commandment in the law is the greatest? And Jesus responded: You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus was saying that every commandment, every law, and every prophetic utterance it’s all about that. But what so many missed and continue to miss? That the Lord God never asks us to do what He Himself has not already done. That God loves us, with all His heart, all His soul, all His mind. Every single one of us.
It sounds too good to be true. What’s the catch? That doubt, that fear, that temptation has undermined humanity from the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve first allowed a slithering serpent lies to be considered… Eventually believing the tempter rather than the creator, and in the process abandoned their dignity, their identity of being made good, in God’s own divine image into creatures who instead grasped and tried to be gods themselves.
But God never stopped loving Humanity with all His heart, all His soul, and all His mind. The God who had created all that is out of nothing – and that wasn’t believable enough for humanity- pours Himself completely into being one of us – In Jesus Christ, being born as a baby of the Blessed Virgin Mary; pours Himself out at the Last Supper in instituting the Eucharist where we dare to take and eat God Himself; pours out Himself out on the Cross. There’s nothing subtle about this. On the Cross God Himself is giving all His heart, all His soul, and all His mind.
There is no greater love.
There is no other definition of love.
There is nothing more He can say or do to demonstrate how madly, deeply, and completely He loves us.
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion confronts us with whether we will reciprocate. For most of us, the Cross isn’t as bloody, and painful – but can be just as real. If we see the opportunities the Lord presents to us.
+ Whenever we show compassion for those suffering
+ Whenever we offer undeserved forgiveness to an enemy;
+ Whenever we take care of the poor, the imprisoned, and those incapable of paying back;
+ Whenever we make sacrifices of ourselves without looking for notoriety or accolades;
+ Whenever we humble ourselves, recognizing all the gifts and blessings we enjoy are truly that – gifts and blessings from God
+ Whenever we don’t let our gut, or our instinct rule and instead pause, and ask if my response is going to demonstrate love for God and neighbor.
Whenever we make those conscious decisions, we move past this being some complex, complicated, confusing sign to recognizing how God has been pretty consistent in telling us who He is and what He wants in response. The salvation of the world, our salvation comes when we embrace Jesus, embrace His teachings, embrace His example, and embrace His cross.