Palm Sunday Homily Notes
The late Father Alfred McBride was one of our most respected faculty members at Pope John XXIII Seminary. In our Homiletics class he cautioned that, given the length of the Passion of The Lord, Palm Sunday homilies should be short. I have followed his advice even to the point of occasionally opting for a brief period of silent reflection. This year, as we begin to emerge from our pandemic induced isolation, and as we prepare to celebrate the Passion and Resurrection in ways not possible last Easter, I suggest that we take the effort to mark the Holy Triduum.
Health and risk factors, as well as common sense, will guide our decisions about whether to participate in person, online or even in private devotion. Recognizing the gift of the Eucharist in our lives, we celebrate its institution on Holy Thursday with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. On Good Friday we reflect on the Passion of Our Lord and venerate the Holy Cross through which he redeemed the world. And of course, at the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday, we commemorate Our Savior’s Resurrection.
My message is simply this, rekindling our awareness of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection can be a great source of strength and balance as we move toward our post-pandemic lives.
5th Sunday in Lent 2021/March 21, 2021
Today’s gospel begins with John telling us about “Some Greeks” that had come to worship at the Passover Feast. They inform Philip that they would like to see Jesus. When Philip and Andrew approach Jesus to convey the request he informs them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He admits he is troubled but adds, “It was for this purpose that I came to this hour.” A challenging but unavoidable aspect of life is accepting and then confronting the challenges we face.
This week the Church celebrates the feast day of our new patron saint, Oscar Romero. If you know something about his life you may be aware that he was a reluctant champion of social justice. He was trained as an academic. He was a university and seminary professor. He also tried to mediate. He was convinced that he could get the upper classes to agree to at least minimum land reform and that he could persuade them to help curtail military abuses. His torment was public and it is central to his story.
In the gospel Jesus acknowledges both the hardship and the inevitability of his fate. That is what Oscar Romero did as priest and bishop. The world would be a different place if Oscar Romero never acted on the stirring of his conscience and sensibility brought about by injustice. He came to believe that if he did not speak out things would never get better and might get worse. Both his adversaries and his admirers warned him that he could get killed. He replied, “I know.”
St. Oscar Romero’s feast day is this Wednesday, March 24. May his martyrdom renew our sense of compassion for the marginalized. May his courage help us to accept life’s toughest challenges. May his heavenly intercession help Canton’s Catholic Community to grow in love and faith.
March 14, 2021
This weekend we hear mention of King Cyrus of Persia in the First Reading from 2nd Chronicles. He is a fascinating historical figure. He is mentioned often in the Old Testament and is widely admired in Jewish history. This is unusual because he is not Jewish. It was Cyrus who freed the Israelites from their enslavement in Babylon and helped them to re-build the Temple after the return to Jerusalem. While I don’t focus on him this year (no one wants to hear the same thing every year) it is worth reminding ourselves that God accomplishes good works through all kinds of people. Our challenge is keep our hearts and minds open to new people, new ways and new ideas.
This Fourth Sunday of Lent has come to be known as Laetare Sunday. More out of tradition than theology it came to remind Christians that even in the midst of a penitential season joy is justified. Why? Because God is rich in mercy.
That is the focus of our Second Reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. In the Gospel Jesus tells Nicodemus that we make the choice, to follow the light or to remain in darkness. We are consigned to the latter only if we refuse to believe or trust the scope and extent of God’s mercy.
In my homily I refer to an extraordinary book, In My Brother’s Image (Eugene Pogany 2000). It is the story of twin brothers who survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary during World War II. Born Jewish, they converted to Catholicism as children. One twin, George, went on to become a priest. He served a Hungarian immigrant parish in New Jersey. Eugene, whose son authored the memoir, became an atheist. The brothers had dinner almost every Sunday. Eugene could not free himself from the anger he felt toward fellow Hungarians who accommodated the Nazis and the Nazis who occupied his village.
George’s suffering was real and the root of his bitterness is understandable. But like all festering anger, if not released, it can become a burden. The more we accept the vastness of God’s mercy the easier it can be for us to show mercy to others.
March 6, 2021
In this weekend’s Gospel we hear the account of Jesus throwing the money changers out of the Temple. It is not a parable. This actual event is commonly referred to as the Cleansing of the Temple. In my homily for this Third Sunday in Lent, I refer to our own need for an occasional spiritual cleansing. I cited the obvious benefit to our oral health of periodic dental exams and cleanings.
At one point I mention how Christians, sometimes individually and sometimes as part of a group, can stray away from core elements of Jesus’ teaching. A troubling example of this phenomenon is found in those who mix various strains of White Supremacy with Christian language or symbols. I said:
“For example, since the U. S. Capitol was stormed on January 6, there have been reports that some rioters who carried crosses and proclaimed they were fighting to defend a Christian nation espouse philosophies that embrace White Supremacy. How can such a concept be embraced as a Christian tenet? How would adherents welcome our dark-skinned and bearded Messiah? For two millennia the Magi have been portrayed as multi-racial and multi-ethnic to remind us of Jesus’ call to make disciples of all nations.
We know from reading their letters and the accounts of the Acts of the Apostles that Peter went eventually to Rome, Thomas to India, Mark to Egypt and Paul everywhere. There is no evidence that they ever met a white person. It is unlikely they preached White Supremacy. Just like the money changers outside the Temple, human beings, whether as individuals or as part of a group, Christians must guard against drifting away from the essential and foundational aspects of discipleship.”
I think it is imperative that we as Christians, as Catholics and in our respective roles as pastor, teacher, parent and neighbor make it clear to any otherwise impressionable person that we not only reject such a perspective, we condemn it.