Palm Sunday

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Homily notes of  Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin

St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, 9th April 2017


“We celebrate today the memory of the solemn yet simple entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the beginning of the journey of Jesus from triumph to rejection, of suffering and death into rising to new life.

The reactions of his hearers to Jesus are very varied.  In Jerusalem in the days the Passover there were many who were probably totally unaware of the mystery that was about to unfold.  Somehow or other the presence of Jesus in their midst is not even recognised and their lives continue as before.

Think then of the reaction of Judas.  Judas belonged to the intimate group of Jesus’ disciples. And yet Judas responds to the love that Jesus has shown him with betrayal. The extraordinary years of closeness alongside Jesus, the experience of hearing his teaching and his stories, of witnessing his healing and caring, have not been able to overcome a dimension of greed and self-centeredness, a space of darkness that remains in and in the end dominates the heart of Judas.

While Judas who experienced deep closeness with Jesus betrayed him, Simon of Cyrene, a complete stranger who, without any notice, was forced to assist Jesus, became a true disciple.

People react in a different manner to their encounter with Jesus.  In all probability some of the crowd who accompanied Jesus on Palm Sunday, who cried “Hosanna” and acclaimed him as their king were back again on Good Friday crying “crucify him” and rejecting him as their king.  Jesus’ closest disciples flee; Peter betrays him verbally.  Only Mary and a few faithful disciples remain consistently close to Jesus until the end.

Today also people react to the message of Jesus in different ways. The Church remains a Church of saints and of sinners. In each one of us there is an interaction between belief and what we call secularisation.  Many who profess themselves as secularised and even those who profess that they belong to no religion, may well possess remnants of faith and these remnants of faith in Jesus and his teaching can play an important role in their lives.  Many of those who would not have hesitated for a moment to register themselves at the census as Catholics, may be unaware of how much a culture of secularisation penetrates their lives and thought patterns and choices. There are those who have received a special call to closeness with the Lord, and yet live a life of compromise and betrayal.  There are those who call themselves Christians yet live as if God did not exist.

There are others who, despite the ups and downs of their commitment, become, through their faith, men and women who renounce the comforts and superficialities of the day. They devote themselves to the service of others – men and women who receive from their faith the courage to oppose violence, deceit, and corruption, and to be witnesses to love and truth in the world.

People react to the teaching of Jesus in so many ways.  There is nothing new in this.  Perhaps in Ireland we were over hypnotized by the high numbers who attended Mass in the past and paid too little attention to helping people really deepen their faith; and perhaps we were so fixed on the tiniest minutiae of doctrine that we missed real depth of faith. We were so quick to identify sin and the sinner that we lost sight of the sinfulness of our own hearts.

As Christians we are called to live our lives in the midst of a world of ambiguities and contradictions.  As a Church we are called to witness to the teaching of Jesus Christ aware that the situation in which the men and women of our time live their lives is not monolithic and aware of the inadequacy of our own witness.

This morning, on Palm Sunday, we join in our own way the procession of those who profess themselves as believers in Jesus and co-workers for his kingdom.   We begin Holy Week as a journey following Jesus as he is lead through obedience from his passion and suffering into newness of life.  And we celebrate that fact with joy.

What does it mean “to follow Christ”?  Following Jesus is not an easy path.  Recognizing Jesus as king means accepting him as the way, the truth and the life.  Working for the kingdom is not constructing our own path but allowing Jesus to show us the way.  Following Christ means accepting his word day after day and attempting to make it the decisive norm of our lives.   Following Jesus is always a path of obedience, just as Jesus became obedient unto death.

It was when Jesus became obedient until death that he opened the door to life for all of us.   Through his obedience he has opened the path to life and has given us the key to life.

The obedience of discipleship requires me to give myself freely, to choose between living only for myself or giving myself for what is greater.  By following Jesus, I enter into the service of truth and love and this begin to understand the norm of the Gospel, that it is in losing my life that I find life, that it is in losing myself I find myself.

Let us set out then into Holy Week, renewing our openness to God’s law of love and God’s plan. May we not just encounter Jesus but recognize him.  May we allow the Lord to help us to open the doors of our hearts, the doors of our world to him who alone is the way, the truth and the life, and who became obedient until death in order that we might have life.”