I would like to share the Palm Sunday homily below that was given by Deacon Stephan Phelps of the Cathedral of the Assumption. It provides a great introduction to Holy Week.
Why Do We Do It?
Why do we do it? Since the beginning of the fourth century, Christians have gathered on this day, Palm Sunday, to recall Christ’s glorious entry into Jerusalem.
We joyfully lift our palm branches, have them blessed, and then, heralded by a trumpet, join voices singing praises as we process into church. But then what happens?
This day also has another name, Passion Sunday. Halfway through the liturgy our voices fall silent as we recall the suffering and death of Christ on the cross. But why do we do it?
We certainly know the story. We know what is going to happen almost moment-by-moment, and there is certainly no surprise ending. So why do we do it?
We do it because the story we just heard is our story. It is the story of our human condition, a story of the human struggle we live with every single day of our lives on earth.
The Passion is important, because it is the ultimate revelation of two intertwined realities, divine love and human sin. Parts are not comfortable to hear, and they are not supposed to be.
The story is a reminder that at times, we are as fickle as that crowd who sang “Hosanna” one day and yelled “Crucify Him” the next — a reminder that there are times we betray another just to save our own skin or make ourselves look better.
How often have we judged another’s guilt because of what people have said without really knowing or even caring about the truth, much less standing up and coming to the aid of the one accused?
And most importantly, how many times have we said, “I’ll never forget that” rather than saying “I forgive you”?
This is why we read the Passion. This is why it is important. Reliving the Passion is an opportunity for deep and honest discernment as to where we are in that story at any given moment, on any given day.
We participate in the Triduum, entering that room for the last supper on Holy Thursday, asking ourselves, “Will we be the ones to be washed, or will we be the ones doing the washing?”
On Good Friday, there will be those who walk each one of those footsteps to the cross with Christ and others who could care less, turning their heads the other way and letting Jesus pass by.
But just as the Passion gives us a time for discernment, it also gives us something else: Hope.
The very next chapter is a story we can put ourselves into as well. The Passion we live today is our gateway to the glorious resurrection we will celebrate on Easter.
Through the Passion, we are given the hope of eternal salvation and can, if we accept it, rise with Christ by our side on that, our last day.
With our Lenten journey of discernment and reflection successfully completed, and a conscious renewed effort to live more Christlike every day, we will once again find ourselves with voices together, singing at the top of our lungs,
“All glory laude and honor, to You redeemer King.”
Cathedral of the Assumption
March 23-24, 2013
Deacon Stephan Phelps