Sunday, March 20, 2016

He died for us!


Today our celebration of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion begins the great feast of Holy Week – the most sacred week of our Church year. Today, in this one liturgy, we move in dramatic form between great highs and great lows, we move from the cheers of “Hosanna!” as Jesus enters Jerusalem to the bitter cries “Crucify Him!” that lead Him to the cross. These two themes of “Hosanna” and “Crucify Him” serve as a prologue to the rest of Holy Week that lies ahead. This is sort of like a movie preview that we see before the feature presentation. We get glimpses of the glory – Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem – and a look at what is to come – His death on the cross.

In the liturgy, before the Second Vatican Council, on Palm Sunday after the reading of the Passion, there was no homily. Even the concluding acclamation: “The Gospel of the Lord” was omitted. It was a proclamation that was greeted by a profound silence. Our liturgy today still calls for a respect for that silence. In the face of the Cross of Jesus, in recognition of his Passion and Death for us, the most eloquent response to this saving Word of God we have proclaimed is silence. The best, most profound homily that can be preached today is right here in our midst and it uses no words – it is the Cross. Jesus died on the cross for each one of us.

We find Jesus on the Cross – not for any sin of his own, but for the sins of all of us throughout all time. He is on that Cross for one reason – because that’s how great His love is for us. These two crossed pieces of wood are the most profound symbol of love that there is. Jesus died for us because He loves us.

Listen to those words: “He died for us:” Many of us have heard them so many times that they no longer carry with the shock of completely sacrificing themselves on account of what we have done. The challenge for each of us is to hear this message again today as though it were the first time, the story of a man who literally died for the sins of his brothers and sisters. He died for us.

This is a story of the profound love that God has for each of us; the profound hope that God places in each of us; and the profound confidence that God has in us that we truly can be His people, we can truly achieve the Kingdom, we can truly overcome our own sinfulness, our own weakness – that nothing is beyond our reach with His grace and help. He died for you; He died for me; He died for us! How will you respond to what God has done for you?

Today’s celebration today marks our entry way into Holy Week. We will spend this next week entering deeply into the story; deeply into the imagery and symbolism and ritual of our salvation. Today reminds us that our story is one that is full of triumph, the triumph of our King, but it is also one that is full of suffering. Our story is one of grace in the Eucharist, in our own Baptism, it is one that calls us into the service of our brothers and sisters.

He died for us. That is what it all comes down to. And so, what will you do? How will you respond to this time of grace? Let those words echo in your heart as you leave here today and throughout this week. He died for us.

May the Lord give you peace.

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