A homily for Passion Sunday
We begin our Palm Sunday liturgy outside the Church reading about Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem riding on a colt and the crowd proclaiming, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The triumphant tone changes inside the Church as we listen to the Passion narrative during the Mass in which the same crowd now shouts, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
This transition in our liturgy reflects our life of discipleship too. We easily betray Jesus after we have professed our love for Him. We pledge to follow Him faithfully in favorable moments and then deny and betray Him in our thoughts, words, and actions in unfavorable moments.
One reason why we easily betray Jesus is that we are trying to follow Jesus without sharing deeply in His attitudes. Two attitudes of Jesus shine out in today’s Readings that we can easily ignore as disciples of Jesus Christ: Humility and silence.
St. Paul reminds us that Jesus Christ “did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped,” but chose to “empty Himself and take the form of a slave.” He humbled Himself throughout His life from the moment that He chose to be conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and to be completely dependent on her like any other infant in the mother’s womb. As God, He could have come to this world as a thirty-three year old man and walked right to Calvary. But in His humility He chose to be “born of a woman.”(Gal 4:4)
In His humility, He shows and manifests His own need for the Father, for the help of others, and for created things. The Creator of all things affirms His need for a donkey to ride on His journey into Jerusalem, “The Master has need of it (colt) and will send it back here at once.” The King of glory chose to need the anointing of the woman in the house of Simon the Leper, “She has done a good thing for me…She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.” The One through whom all things are created gave thanks to the Father for a tiny piece of bread at the Last Supper, “Then He took a cup, gave thanks and gave it to them.” The all-powerful One did not pretend or hide the pains and fears of His heart to His disciples at the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. He who had the ready command of 12 legions of angels asked for the company of frail men, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here with me.”
He faced His passion with silence. He rode in complete silence even as the crowd proclaimed Him during His entry into Jerusalem, “Those who preceding Him as well as those following kept crying out: Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” He definitely did not glorify Himself. He was silent before the chief priests and the Sanhedrin, “But He was silent and answered nothing.” His silence in the midst of all the accusations against Him unnerved Pilate, “Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.”
Why should silence and humility matter for us as it did for Jesus? By humbling Himself, Jesus in His humanity was completely dependent on the Father for everything, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing on His own accord but only what He sees the Father doing.”(Jn 5:19) By His silence, He allowed the Father to act and to bring out His greater glory. Likewise, our own humility, our sense of our complete nothingness, should lead us to a radical trust in God alone. After we have done all that we can do and say, our silence in the face of trials and temptations allows God to act in unique ways and bring about His greater glory in all things.
The glory of God does not imply that we do not face challenging and difficult situations. But God is certainly glorified when we bear fruit and remain faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in all circumstances, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my (Jesus’) disciples.”(Jn 15:8)
It is not easy for us to cultivate these virtues of humility and silence in our world today. Consumerism makes us live today with that entitlement mentality by which we think and feel that we are entitled to all that we want, how we want it, and when we want it. In our pride, we feel that God, others, and society must bend to our whims. Mass media kills our outer silence by constantly bombarding us with news, information, and opinions that are often contrary to what we believe. But we lose our inner silence when we become frustrated because we cannot have all that we desire. This frustration sets off an endless self-talk within us that shows our grumbling and discontent with life. Losing that inner silence, we vent on social media, endlessly complaining and whining about all that is not going our way. Humility and silence are lost and we cannot be faithful to Jesus Christ in the circumstances of our lives.
Humility begins when we realize that all the truly good things that we desire, have, and do comes from God and He alone maintains this good in us. We distrust ourselves and put our hope in God alone. Humility allows us to accept our need for God and for others. We accept ourselves with our strengths and limitations while striving to become what God is calling us to be. We accept our failures and are patient and compassionate with others.
We cultivate inner silence by refusing to live on the level of the visible and sense-perceptible things and events. But we journey inside ourselves to connect with the God who dwells and acts from within us. Connecting with Him, we grasp His plan for us in those moments for His greater glory and we can make a faith-filled response to Him in all circumstances.
How do we know that we have cultivated this humility and silence in our lives? We do more than just seek deliverance from difficulties and trials. In times of troubles and temptations, we can, like Jesus, choose not to pray, “Father, save me from this hour,” but we shall like Him say, “Father, glorify your name.”(Jn 12:27-29) This is the attitude that allows God to act in us and through us for His greater glory and our constant fidelity to Him in all circumstances.
The King of glory comes to us today in the humility and silence of the Eucharist so that we bear fruit always to the glory of His Father. May Mother Mary, who suffered with Jesus on Calvary by sharing in His own humility and silence, teach us to share in these attitudes of Jesus so that we are faithful to Jesus today, tomorrow, and forever, no matter the circumstances of our lives.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!