April 14, 2019
Palm Sunday – C
There is an old saying that a preacher should practice what he preaches. If a preacher does not practice what he or she preaches, then the preacher will probably be removed or held up as a bad example. In recent months a former cardinal and archbishop named Theodore McCarrick had all his ecclesiastical titles taken away and was reduced to the lay state because of his conviction for sexual abuse of minors and other crimes. He is now living a life of prayer and penance. Jesus, on the other hand, was a preacher who practiced what he preached. Palm Sunday shows Jesus entering Jerusalem in triumph and few days later condemned to death and undergoing suffering and death by crucifixion. Yet in both situations Jesus acted and spoke in accord with what he had preached and done during his public ministry. He entered Jerusalem seated on a colt, a sign of his being a king of peace. After he was arrested, Jesus healed the ear of the servant of the high priest, an enemy of his, and Jesus ordered his disciples to put away their swords. Jesus also asked his Father to forgive his enemies, for they knew not what they were doing. Jesus surrendered his soul to his Father in trust, and he was attentive to the needs of the people around him. Today we also learn about is needed on our part to be a disciple of Jesus. First of all, we are to repent of our failures to serve Jesus; secondly, we are to leave everything behind to follow him; and, thirdly, we are to follow the example and teaching of Jesus in our daily lives.
So, first of all, we are called to repentance for our failures of the past. It is possible to make a new beginning and to be part of God’s kingdom. We find Simon Peter denying Jesus three times, as Jesus had predicted at the Last Supper. However, when Jesus glanced at Peter, Peter went out and wept bitterly. We know that Peter did return after the resurrection of Jesus and become the leader of the Church and remained faithful in this role. St. Luke has people in the crowd returning home beating their breasts in sorrow. Also, the Roman centurion, a pagan, said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” There is an incident found only in the Gospel of Luke about one of the criminals crucified with Jesus. This man repented and said to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” This shows that it is never too late to repent and to be forgiven.
Secondly, to be a disciple of Jesus means that we must leave everything behind and make whatever sacrifices are needed to follow Jesus. In the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, St. Luke says that the people spread their cloaks on the road that Jesus rode on. How many of us would be willing to put our coat on the ground for someone to ride on? We also find Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish council or Sanhedrin, who was willing to risk everything by asking Pilate for the body of Jesus and then burying Jesus in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had been buried. There were women from Galilee who had left behind everything to follow Jesus. They also prepared spices and perfumed oils for his body. As followers of Jesus, we have to be willing to risk our reputation and share our resources with others.
Lastly, we are called to follow the teaching and example of Jesus. We are to love our enemies and forgive those who have injured us. We are to be attentive to the needs of the people around us by giving spiritual, emotional, and material support. We are to put our trust in God, even when everything seems to be going against us. We are to use peaceful and nonviolent means to resolve conflicts and to defend ourselves and others.
So, today on Palm Sunday, we are once again called to put our faith in Jesus and seek to be his disciple. Let us give thanks for the salvation Jesus has won for us by his suffering and death. Let us pray that we can be faithful disciples of Jesus by repenting of our failures to serve him, by leaving everything behind in order to serve him, and by following his teaching and example in our daily lives. May this time of Holy Week and Easter help us to live each day as a disciple of Jesus, and may we someday enter into the fullness of his kingdom.