Palm Sunday Sermon: Purified and Given Back
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! … Hosanna in the highest!” Today, as Christ enters Jerusalem, the crowds are raucous with joy. This Friday, we know well, their attitude will be very different. Today they welcome the Lord. In five short days, they will condemn Him: “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Mt 27:25).
Lest we judge too harshly the crowd that gathered two thousand years ago, it would behoove us to recall that the Sacred Liturgy places these same words on our lips at each and every celebration of the Holy Mass. At every Mass, we become that same crowd that welcomes and then condemns the Lord. After all, as we have recited so many times at the Stations of the Cross: “My adorable Jesus, it was not Pilate, no, it was my sins that condemned Thee to die.”
How, then, could we take these frightening words so repeatedly upon our lips? This is truly the greatness of what Christ has done. In obedience to the will of the Father, He has taken on the depth of the human condition, not merely to pay a price, but to restore what was broken. Laid in the tomb, He takes with him our humanity to His divine workshop, where it will be not only refashioned and repaired but made entirely new.
Then, in the depths of His love, He gives back to us what was broken and lost. He sets upon our lips the words of the crowds – “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!” – because those very words have been redeemed. Unknowingly, even those who condemned Him to death played a part in the mystery of salvation and are not excluded from the possibility of forgiveness.
In our life of faith, we are often called to imitate His death to self. But when the Lord calls us to sacrificial love, He will not merely take from us. He always restores what we have lost in its truest meaning and purpose.
We often tell people that when we believe in God, things just go better in our lives. Christ’s death reveals this as a shallow version of Christianity, if it is Christianity at all. Belief in Christ does not automatically make our lives better. “To be restore, our sickness must grow worse.” The healing of our wounds of sin comes through tragedy and pain, but this tragedy and pain are no longer to be endured without hope. Christ’s saving death shows us that suffering has been transformed from within, and that we too are able to able to cry out, “Blessed in He!” because our infidelity has been transformed by the obedience of the Son of God.
From the Cross, Christ has given us back our humanity – our freedom, our love, and everything that makes life beautiful and worthwhile – and it will never be the same again.
The Rev. Royce V. Gregerson
Parish Church of St. John the Evangelist, Goshen
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, A.D. MMXXI
Image: Entry of Christ into Jerusalem. Pietro Lorenzetti (c. 1280-1348). Basilica di San Francesco. Assisi, Italy.