|The new banner of Jesus Christ Crucified used at Mass at Montclair State University|
Happy Holy Week! Fr. Jim
Normally we hear only one Gospel reading proclaimed at Sunday Mass. Typically there’s a homily after that. Today this will be the second Gospel reading, the first we heard at the very start of Mass recounting the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem where he was greeted with cheers and cries of “Hosanna.” We don’t stay with that story for long, knowing how short lived the sentiment of the cheers were for Jesus. So in a few moments we will proclaim the arrest, trial, false sentencing, torture, murder and death of Jesus. A Gospel that in some ways doesn’t need a homily. . .it can speak for itself. This is obviously not a “normal” or “typical” Sunday.
Before we enter into this second Gospel - the one time in the Church year that we proclaim it together - it’s important for us to pause and realize what a truly defining moment this is for each of us and what this means. This past week, at Montclair State University, we had the Grand Opening of what is called the Center for Faith and Spirituality. At our secular, state, public school, for the University to acknowledge of religion to students is a great thing. One of the center’s goals is to open more possibilities for discussions and dialogues to take place where people can come together from their various faiths and beliefs to see all of the similarities and focus on what unites us. As valuable as that is, often times people can begin to have a mistaken belief that the differences don’t really matter, that they are simply slight variations that are insignificant. A popular expression some who hold this view will say is “We’re all on different paths to the same destination.” Or there’s a flawed comparison saying the differences between all religions are no more important than the fact that people around the world speak different languages. Often this is done out of good intention, to minimize the differences and amplify the universal beliefs that all people share.
While we can appreciate that good intention - particularly to promote understanding between different faiths - we have to realize that what we are about to do, what we are about to proclaim is an important dividing line, that in a very bold, shocking to some and scandalous to others, breaks us away from that unity - and must be acknowledged. Mohammed, the gods of the Hindus, the philosophies espoused by the Buddha and Confuscious will not be able to find a parallel with what we are about to proclaim...
We cannot – we must not overlook this important dividing line that reveals:
- Only Christians believe in a God who was fully divine and fully human.
- Only Christians believe that this fully divine, fully human named Jesus Christ loves us, loves me, loves you that he sees and knows our sinfulness that continues to reject, mock, yes even crucifies God every day in the public square. That this has caused a brokenness we cannot repair on our own... it’s has created a debt we can never pay back.
- Only Christians believe and acknowledge that this reality which has existed from the fall of Adam and Eve to this moment - has been paid, has been healed by the blood of Jesus Christ shed for each of us.
- Only Christians believe that God steps in our place, so much does he love the world he created.
As members of the Catholic Church that Jesus founded, at this moment, we are asked - do we believe this? Do we see this dividing line and why it is so important? Do we realize we aren’t simply recounting of a historic event from 2,000 years ago or taking part in some drama play that’s an annual tradition? Do we recognize how fortunate we are to have a God that loves us this much? ... He loves us so much that Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection is re-presented on our altar at every Mass in the Eucharist as the enduring, lasting gift that our God has given us.
Palm Sunday calls us to re-awaken to these realities of our faith and to enter into this Passion, knowing that all of us - me and you are central to this story. If you are ready to acknowledge these truths that make you a Christian, If you are ready to add your voices to our story of our salvation; then we are ready to take our place, to stand and join in the proclamation of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.