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

March 26, 2018

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Year B – March 25, 2018
[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace] 

In ancient cultures, if the crops failed because of drought or flood, it was presumed that the gods were angry for some reason and needed to be appeased with sacrifice.  If enemies were poised on a nation’s borders ready to pounce, not only was the army readied, but the priests gathered the people to plead to the gods and offer sacrifices to assure victory.  If a deadly disease was rampant, devastating the population, it was presumed that the gods were angry, and sacrifice was offered to appease them.  Even the Israelites had their sin offerings, sacrificing bulls and goats to appease the wrath of God so that they would not be destroyed in their sins. 

It has not escaped the notice of the true and living God that it is humanity that is angry.  There is a seething anger in the hearts of a few, which results in gun violence against many and the devastation it brings to young lives and to families.  There is a lustful anger that leads to sexual exploitation and its dehumanization, especially of women and children.  There is cultivated anger that leads to bullying another person, whether by physical violence, name calling, cyber bullying, or frivolous lawsuits.  There is outrage against those of another race that may result in violence.  There is the icy cold and seething silence between a couple when one feels hurt by the other.  There is the prideful wrath of one nation against another that often leads to war. 

Today we celebrate an amazing fact, however.  Rather than humanity offering sacrifice to appease an angry god, God offers himself in sacrifice to appease an angry humanity.  The Son of God, who healed the sick and raised the dead, places himself on the wood of the cross where the fire of human rage scourges him, spits at him, and happily hangs him up to die.  He did this willingly, taking the form of a slave, because God knows that our outrageous rage can only be healed with outrageous and passionate love.  Before, the veil of the Temple hid God away so that sacrifice could be offered to him and the people could be shielded from his wrath.  But now the veil of the Temple is torn in two from top to bottom, because God has come out to us who stand outside, so that we can see more clearly how much he is willing to give for us.  It is only by understanding such incredible love, in which Jesus becomes the Lamb of sacrifice, that there is any hope that angry humanity can finally be appeased.  And once appeased by this sacrifice in which God offers himself to us, there can be nothing but life and joy and the courage to offer ourselves with Jesus on the crosses of life to bring peace to a world gone mad.  This is the Passion of the Lord Jesus Christ which we celebrate today.