Ampleforth Abbey

25 February 2018

Palm Sunday.jpg

Homily preached on Palm Sunday, 13th April 2014, by Abbot Cuthbert Madden.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the celebration of this Sunday with its solemn commemoration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the reading of the Passion begins for us the Great Week of the Church’s year. In this great and holy week we should endeavour to set aside time each day to reflect upon the mysteries which have gained our salvation. These are the mysteries which have freed us from the burden of sin. These are the mysteries which we should preach to others if we are to be faithful missionary disciples of Christ; if we are to answer the call entrusted to us at our baptism.

In our liturgy today we have had juxtaposed two contrasting scenes. We have heard the crowds shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21.9) and we heard them just days later shouting, “Let him be crucified! ... Let him be crucified!” (Matt. 27.22-23). In the first scene Jesus initiates his reign as Messiah as he enters the city of Jerusalem. In the second his own people play their part in handing over the God-man to be crucified by the Gentiles. We are painfully aware, are we not, that this juxtaposition exists in our own world today, it even exists in our own hearts: at one moment we are crying out, “Save us, Son of David” and in the next as we become embroiled in sin once more we are shouting, “Crucify him, crucify him”.

It would be very easy for us to leave this Church completely unchanged by what we have heard this morning. It would be easy for us to push the Gospel back, safely back, into the past; to consign it to the depths of history. But, actually, Jesus asks us to experience this week in the same way as his beloved Jewish people experience Passover: we should allow this week to become alive within us and around us. We should participate in the events which took place in Jerusalem about 2000 years ago. We should allow the Sacred Triduum at the end of this week to be the high point in our year, a high point which challenges us, a high point which changes us; changes us because we have allowed our Lord and Saviour to enter into our lives and redeem them.

The readings from the Scriptures which we have heard this morning are readings which describe for us the love which God has for us, his people. The Gospels in particular describe what love looks like. We have a tendency to allow this word “love” to be hijacked by ideas of romantic love and erotic love. No one would want to deny the importance of these forms of love for human beings; but we limit, we circumscribe, our own capacity to be true lovers if we fail to include self-sacrifice within our concept of love. Through his beloved Son God shows us how we may become true lovers. Through his beloved Son God shows us how human beings are to be reconciled with God and with each other. In this troubled and violent world you and I are being called to live in obedience to the Gospel in order that men and women learn how to live in peace with God and with each other.

In the course of the last year the world, our world, has become an ever more troubled place: nations are in tumult and kingdoms are shaken; men and women, many of them innocent men and women, are suffering and dying. Our world is crying out for justice and peace. Our world is crying out for true love. And we, we are called to help build that peace by following in the footsteps of Christ, by being missionary disciples telling of His love, living His love.

As we celebrate what our Eastern Brethren call the “Great Week”, what we in the West call “Holy Week”, let us resolve to allow Christ to enter our minds and hearts to transform us. Let us clear away all that impedes the work of Christ in our lives. Today, let us listen anew to the Gospel we have heard proclaimed to us. Let us receive his Body and Blood and allow his life to course within us. Let us proclaim Christ in our words and in our deeds.