Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord – March 28, 2021
St. Mary – Derby, KS
Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47
As we begin this Holy Week, as we enter into the Pascal Mystery of Christ, the Church tells the priest something very important: be brief. The homily should be brief. And I promised last week and told people to post it all over social media, “Fr. Michael is going to be brief.”
But why? Why? Because there are too many words already? Because mass shouldn’t be too long? Because people are bored? Yeah, no! What the Church is saying is, “Let the words and actions of the liturgy speak for themselves. Let people live, truly live this Mystery, don’t explain it away.” And so my words today are only an attempt to help you enter this Mystery this week, to help you live this Mystery alongside Christ himself.
And this Mystery we need to live, this mindset we need to embrace, can all be summed up in the words from our second reading: “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.…Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him” (Philippians 2:6-7a, 8-9). That’s it. Emptying ourselves, becoming a slave, becoming obedient to the point of death. In this week, we enter into the great mystery of obedience to the point of death, the mystery that obedience, and not doing whatever we want, leads to the greatest things in life, to exaltation, to God. Over and over again, St. Paul is trying to tell us to have the mind of the Messiah, to empty ourselves, to become obedient.
The real question is, “Obedience to what?” To God? To the rules? To what? Obedience to what we really are, obedience to our humanity. At our core, at the core of our humanity, in our heart, we are in relationship with God—whether you like it or not. When we don’t recognize this, when we decide to live our life without the Lord, we end-up making ourselves the center of everything…and if you have ever met someone who is self-centered you know how miserable their life is. No, self-centeredness isn’t the answer.
The answer is obedience, simple obedience. This sounds crazy. I know. We’re raised to think that the goal is to be able to take care of yourself, to provide for yourself, to be the one to forge your own path, your own destiny, to make your own history. We see it throughout history. In the extreme cases, think of those people that decided they had to take-over the world: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Adolf Hitler. They thought they could change the world by their own power, by the sheer force of their own will. But even though these were some of the most powerful people in history, even they couldn’t succeed. And we all try to do this on a much smaller scale. We try to take over our own lives, to be the one who can shape and change our history and destiny, to make ourselves happy. This past year, we discovered how little we are in control of things as a pandemic shut down our life. And even then, we flailed all year looking for control—and that was manifested primarily in how everyone’s life got sucked into the election. As kids, all we can think about is the day when our parents cannot tell us what to do anymore; that’s why you have dreams of running away, or getting lost, or moving out. And yet over and over and over again, we experience that even the ability to do whatever we want doesn’t make us as happy as we thought it would.
We think that at some point we can go at it alone, that at some point obedience becomes obsolete. And if we only see obedience as being forced to do things we don’t want to do, then yeah, obedience isn’t worth it. But that’s not the obedience the Lord is asking of us. He is asking us to obey, to listen to his example, and realize that the greatest things in history do not come from seizing power or taking care of ourselves, but from handing everything over to Another, from handing our lives over to Another, by placing our lives in the Lord’s hands. In this way, we live free from the powers of the world, and instead are caught up in the Force that truly moves history and truly makes us happy. We are caught-up in the Mystery of this Holy Week.
Because at the end of the day, we either believe in our own power, or we believe in God. And I’ve never seen someone’s belief in their own power work out in the end—never. But if you truly enter into this week, truly live this week, then you will begin to live obedience, handing things over to Another, handing your life over to God himself.
Go back and read and pray with our second reading, each day! Pray with it, meditate on it. Enter into this Mystery this week, and live this Mystery alongside Christ himself.