Sunday, March 20, 2016

Entering the Holy of Holies of our Faith (Palm Sunday homily)

With the long readings for Palm Sunday,
it behooves me to keep my homily brief. 
So, I will just point out a few details.

Let’s begin with the entrance into Jerusalem. 
First, you should know that huge numbers of people 
were present for the Passover. At least a million people! 
And second, because this was a sacred pilgrimage, 
it was a strong tradition 
that you did not approach the city except on foot. 

Add to that, the Prophet Zechariah had described 
the Messiah entering Jerusalem on a donkey.
So what Jesus did wasn’t just a curiosity; 
it would have caused tremendous excitement. 
It would have turned the city upside down.

Next, notice that the passage from Isaiah, 
and the psalm we prayed, are also prophecies. 
You do realize that what we heard from Isaiah 
was written probably 600 or so years before Jesus was born? 
And the words from the psalm might be from a thousand years before? 
Just stop and think about that. 
The details of Jesus’ life, his miracles, and his suffering and death, 
were all foretold centuries before!

I want to share something from Scripture scholar John Bergsma
about what we heard from Saint Paul. 
He says that “St. Paul probably has in mind here 
the ancient ritual of the Day of Atonement,” or Yom Kippur. 

And what happened was that, like the Passover, 
huge numbers of worshippers would be gathered in Jerusalem. 
The High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies 
and make atonement for the nation. 
And when he exited, he would give a blessing; 
and in that blessing, he would do what otherwise no Jew would ever do: 
he would pronounce the Divine Name of God over all the people. 
And when he did that, the entire assembly, as one man, 
would fall to their faces to hear the Name of God.

For us, that is the name of Jesus! 
And notice what we did a moment ago, 
as we heard the account of Jesus’s death: we fell to our knees.

This week, and especially the Three Nights 
of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, 
are the Holy of Holies for us. 
Let us pray for one another, 
especially for those who may need a boost of faith, during this week. 

And never forget what happened for the criminal beside Jesus: 
all he had to do was ask for mercy, and Jesus said, 
“This day you will be with me in Paradise”! 
Jesus is always ready to give complete mercy and restoration 
to anyone. All we have to do is ask!

No comments: