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Bishop's Homily for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

April 9, 2017

Homily of the Most Reverend Larry Silva, Bishop of Honolulu
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Year A – [Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, Honolulu]

Somehow the first reading of today’s Mass reminded me of the recent political campaign.  Candidates with “well-trained” tongues tried to rouse the weary and convince them that a vote for themselves would be in everyone’s best interest.  At the same time, they had to give their faces, as the Scriptures say, “to those who plucked off the beard,” which we might translate as “those who tore them apart.”  And they certainly were torn apart by their opponents and by the media.  They had to give their faces, at least figuratively, to “buffets and spitting.”  Yet they set them like flint and plowed on, either to victory or to defeat, with the intention of making our country a better place for everyone.  While it is a shame that political campaigns have become so strident and divisive – perhaps a reason we do not have more candidates who are well qualified – no matter what side of the politic divide we are on, at least we can admire the dedication of those who “give their backs to those who beat them.”

The person we are celebrating here, however, is much more important than any political leader.  Jesus is the “Son of David,” “he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  He is the “King of the Jews” and of all nations and peoples.  He is the one who is “seated at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  He had a well trained tongue that did speak to the weary a word that would rouse them – and he still speaks that word to us.  He is so dedicated to his mission that he did not shield his face from “buffets and spitting,” but became obedient even to death, death on a cross.

But just as politics should not be a spectator sport but a reality that engages us all in making this a better world, so our faith in Jesus is not meant to be a spectator sport.  Jesus has given us the best news we can possibly hear, victory over sin and death!  He gives us his own body and blood so that he can continue his risen life in us and continue to heal and minister through us, his disciples.  But do we more often than not flee the fray, just as his disciples did, because we simply do not want to take the abuse that we know will come to us if we publicly affiliate with Jesus?  Do we come here and swear our allegiance to him, singing our Hosannas, then go out to the world in which we live proclaiming, in effect, “I do not know the man!”?  Yet how can we, who have been so marvelously blessed with such good news as Jesus not want to go out and share it with others?  Will others tear us apart?  Subject our faces to buffets and spitting?  Is that what keeps us from giving witness to Jesus?

If so, Jesus understands, but still calls us to go out of our comfort zones to share the good news with the members of our family whose faith has grown lukewarm; with our co-workers or classmates who only know Jesus as a person from the history books and have no idea that he is still alive and still longing to give his love to everyone; with a world in which individuals think they have no need for any god but themselves.  This Holy Week offers us a special opportunity to let the Lord open our ears so that we may hear, and then have the courage not just to rejoice in his love, but to take it where it is more desperately needed.  Even if we should suffer for doing so, we know that Jesus does not ask us to do anything he has not done before us, by laying down his life for us.  He is here with us to give us himself, and with that gift to give us all courage and a well-trained tongue so that this weary world can be roused to confess the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord!