Monday, 14 April 2014

PALM SUNDAY
 HOMILY -------------- St. Thomas More Catholic Church, POCSP, Toronto – April 13, 2014

“I gave my back to the smitters . . . I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.”  From Isaiah 50

With Palm Sunday and the story of the Passion of Jesus we reach the peak of the history of our salvation accomplished by the power of God.  From the triumphal arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem we immediately turn to the depth of human suffering and human savagery in the passion and crucifixion of Jesus.

What has been anticipated in the Old Testament and promised by God is our salvation from sin and death.  This is fulfilled in mystery of Holy Week and Easter, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah.

The Passion of our Lord is the story of Jesus' work of  redemption accomplished for us in the New Covenant which is written in his blood and his broken body on the cross at Golgotha, the place of the Skull.

“All this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel (Matt. 26:56).



Jesus is “counted among the wicked,” as Isaiah had foretold (Isaiah 53:12). He is revealed as the Suffering Servant, whom the prophet announced. Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah whose words of obedience and faith ring out in today’s reading from Isaiah.


Counted among the wicked, Jesus becomes the scapegoat for human sinfulness as have so many before him and so many since been used as a focus for collective sin. In fact, in every civilization at its very cultural root is this tragedy of fallen human nature and the collective desire to find a scapegoat, as Rene Girard has pointed out so powerfully. 


More of this on Good Friday as we think about the Passion of Jesus and the distinctive nature of his suffering, death and resurrection which exposes and puts to an end the legitimizing of guilt through human scapegoating and human sacrifice.

The taunts and torments we hear in these readings today punctuate the Gospel as Jesus is beaten and mocked (Matt 27:31). His hands and feet are pierced, as enemies gamble for his clothes (Matt. 27:35). His enemies dare him to prove his divinity by saving himself from suffering (Matt. 27:39-44). 



However, Jesus remains faithful to God’s will to the end and does not turn back. He gives himself freely to his torturers, confident that, as we hear today from the Prophet Isaiah: The Lord God is My help . . . I shall not be put to shame.”



Destined to sin and death as children of Adam’s disobedience, we have been set free for holiness and life by Christ’s perfect obedience even to innocently bearing the suffering of a scapegoat for the sins of humanity  (Romans 5:12-14,17-19; Eph. 2:1-2; 5:6).



This is why God greatly exalted Jesus. This is why we have salvation in the Name of Christ. Following the example of his humble obedience in the trials and crosses of our own lives, we can trust that we will never be forsaken. 

With the Suffering Servant we must at times say: “I gave my back to the smitters . . . I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.”  (Isaiah 50)

We can do so only because, as the centurion said,: “truly this is the Son of God” ( Matt. 27:54).




Isaiah 50:4-7; 

Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24; 

Phil. 2:6-11;  

Matt. 26:14-27:66


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