Sermon Palm Sunday
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST !!!
Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together; and we all take up Thy Cross and say : Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
We must admit a certain amount of irony today, for because of a plague we cannot all be gathered together. Most of us must stay home so that we do not endanger those who are vulnerable.
This current plague has raised many a question for us. Being forced to stay home, being forced to quiet ourselves, being forced to take a break from our usual busyness has made us look at our priorities. What is it that we do that is important? What is it that we do. . . that we really can find better ways to do? It is a deeper asking of the sorts of questions that we asked 50 years ago. Then, many of us thought the solution was to simplify by uglifying. The assumption was made that beauty was an unnecessary extravagance. This was a solution put forward by a culture that thought that everything important happened only in the brain.
We have all, as a whole culture been forced to observe a Lent of simplifying and solitude. And what do we miss the most? Do we miss going to work and sitting in our cubical? Do we miss the traffic jams? No, we miss the beauty of connecting with others; we miss the beauty of being close with others; we miss the beauty of going to concerts and listening to live music; we miss the beauty of our favourite restaurants, and the people that we interact with daily, even if casually. We are being smacked over the head with what is really important. Function over beauty is showing itself to be a false dichotomy.
“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”
Today we remember a very beautiful act, and we remember that someone said that it wasn’t very practical. Judas commits what he thinks is a powerful “WhatAboutIsm”. . . “Yes this was a very beautiful act; but what about the poor?” It is not a zero-sum game. We can, and MUST have beauty to express our love for He Who IS beyond all beauty. The beauty of what we do is a poor reflection of the beauty of Him Whom we worship. Yet we must give it all the beauty we can. And at the same time we MUST minister to the poor, to the afflicted, to the hungry, to the sick, to those who have been traumatized by life.
We must beatify our temple — we must care for the poor. The time is coming very quickly when we must consider the building of our own temple. As we move towards that we must both consider the poor, and consider that we are honouring our Lord, just as Mary did in today’s gospel.
And through the epistle, the Church tells us “REJOICE! The Lord is near.” We rejoice, for in our unity, the Lord is present. This is a Rejoicing that can exist even when we are grieved. It is a choice: REJOICE! even when the circumstances do not seem to be joyful. REJOICE! even in the midst of grief and pain — for “The Lord is near.”
St. Paul commends to us the virtues. It is best to focus on them — to consider them, to consider the things that have been learned and received, heard and seen; and peace beyond knowing will be with us, and will guard our hearts and thoughts.
And now Jesus come to be anointed before His death. It is both for His death and to indicate Him as the anointed One, the Christ, that He is anointed. He is offered a very beautiful gift.
And Judas takes offense. Jesus rebukes him. Jesus paraphrases Deuteronomy: “The Poor you shall always have with you.” This has been used by some as a justification for doing nothing for the poor. But the rest of that verse in Deuteronomy says: “Therefore, I command thee saying: thou shalt open thy hand wide unto thy brother and to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” Jesus makes reference to our duty to the poor, but indicates that His time with them in the flesh is limited — that it must be savoured.
And so we must beatify our temple; we must beatify our singing; but we must not ignore the poor while we are doing it. Neither, as Judas suggested, may we ignore the first two. Jesus’ rebuke to Judas was also a rebuke to any who would travel the path of wickedness: “You will not always have Me with you.” Jesus is telling them that there will be plenty of opportunities to minister to Him indirectly by ministering to the poor — but this is a unique opportunity to minister to Him directly. But Judas did not understand.
And so Jesus mounts upon the colt of a donkey. Here Jesus is performing the traditional triumphal entry of a king into a city; but He does it with humility riding on the foal of an ass. In doing so He fulfills the prophesy of Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; proclaim aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold thy King is coming to thee, a Just One, and a Saviour; He is meek and riding on an ass, and a young foal.”
The people, most of whom had been hanging out in Bethany with Jesus and Lazarus, immediately recognize the prophesy, and cry out HOSANNA! HOSANNA! In Hebrew, Hosanna means “Save now” They are recognizing Him to be the long awaited Saviour. They are asking Him to save them: “Save us, O Son of David.” It may be likely that they understood this salvation to be in political terms. They may have expected this Messiah to be a new and improved earthly king. Many have, and continue to have this misunderstanding. But the people did not understand.
The King of the Universe enters Jerusalem in humility — He even had to borrow a donkey to ride.
And the Saducees and Pharisees of the Sanhedrin are upset. This One Whom they had counted as an enemy is now proclaimed King of Israel. The Sanhedrin did not understand.
Thus begins Holy Week. Jesus comes as a humble King. And Time as we know it begins to pass away. In the Eucharist, the Passion, the Death, the Resurrection, the Kingdom of God breaks into our time. That which is without Time comes to dwell in time. The fathers of the Church underline this by having no assigned Tone to this week. The Octoechos has ceased. Time, as we usually measure it, is beginning to expire.
In one of the Gospels, Jesus will say at the supper: “I will no more taste of the fruit of the vine until I taste it in the Kingdom. At His Passion when He is crucified, He will be offered sour wine on a stick, which He will refuse. Then at the end of His Passion, after three hours, He, knowing all things are accomplished will say: “I thirst.” Again, He will be offered sour wine on a stick — this time He will drink it. And He will say “It has been finished (It has been accomplished)”, and deliver up His spirit. With this the Kingdom of God, that timeless Kingdom, invades time.
And He will be in the Body — in the tomb; in Hades — with the soul; in Paradise — with the thief; on the throne — with the Father and the Spirit — He Who fillest all things.
And then we will celebrate His resurrection from the dead; His trampling down death by death. We will begin another week without a set tone, in which we must, never-the-less, SING EVERYTHING. This is to show us that since Time as we know it has passed away, a new Time beyond Time is inaugurated — an eighth day. Our Homeland is come — a week is as if it were a single day — That which Jesus has called us to has been made known to us. The Kingdom of God is made present to us continually.
Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together; and we all take up Thy Cross and say : Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest to Him, together with His Father Who IS without beginning, and the Holy glorious and Life-creating Spirit be all glory and honour, now and ever and unto ages of ages.