Passages: Zech. 9:9-15; Phil. 4:4-7; Matthew 20:29-21:17 (cf. Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, John 12:12-19)
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
One day a very rich and powerful man decided he would go looking for God. He traveled by air, land and sea to all the places he believed God would be. He went to Churches, Mosques, Temples, and Shrines looking for God. One day he decided he would visit the Holy sites and areas of miracles and weeping icons. But no matter where he went, he could not find God. Therefore, this man began to think perhaps there is no God because He or it is nowhere to be found. Broken and disappointed, the man went out for a walk. As he walked along the path, he saw a family of ducklings waddling across the street. It was a busy street, and the mother duck led her chicks safely across. However, the man observed, one of the ducklings had been left behind and it began frantically searching for its mother. The mother duck hearing the cries of her duckling, calmly went back across the street and led her one stray duck to safety. And as the man watched this unfold, he realized that God is not lost and is not in need of finding. We are the ones who are lost, searching for our guide. Therefore, we don’t need to find God somewhere. Rather, God is always with us, but we must follow!
My dear brothers and sisters, last year around this time all of us were isolated in our homes and we were unable to gather, to come to Church and pray. We were frightened and perhaps, like that duckling, frantically we began searching for God, for hope. Though it has been a year and life is slowly getting back to normal, many of us still perhaps feel like we are in search of hope, in search of answers. As we begin, this, the holiest of weeks for the Church, perhaps we will again make a resolution to be more prayerful, more active in our faith and in our pursuit of God. Holy Week, which began yesterday with the resurrection of Lazarus and continues all the way to Easter, the feast of the glorious resurrection and revelation of Christ Jesus, is a week full of emotional and prayerful celebrations as we recount the final days of Christ’s ministry on earth and of our response to God’s love.
We see in scripture in the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem, that the people were excited to accept Jesus into Jerusalem, in verse 8 “Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.” What day is today? Palm Sunday. Yet, scripture doesn’t emphasize palm branches but all branches with the addition that some people even lay their garments or clothes on the ground before Jesus. However, my dears, the story of Palm Sunday does not begin here.
Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, which if asked, we would say is about what? Christ Jesus entering Jerusalem sitting on a donkey. It is just one example of how God the Son, Christ Jesus, humbled himself, and in those final days before his passion and crucifixion, Christ continued to teach us who He is.
Yet, today’s festival name “palm” Sunday doesn’t say anything about Jesus entering Jerusalem. Unless we know the story of what took place on Palm Sunday, the name doesn’t make sense. Why palms? Why not Olive trees? In places where palms are not accessible, do they not celebrate Palm Sunday? My dears, to understand this day, we must begin by looking at the whol picture. Today’s passage begins not with Jesus entering Jerusalem but with Jesus’ healing 2 blind men who were calling out to Jesus, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” (vv. 31) Even after repeatedly the crowds told them to be quiet and sit down, they yelled even louder. Of course, we see and read how Jesus approached them and with compassion healed them. Yet, once Jesus healed them, what did they do? “…immediately they received their sight and followed him.” (v. 34)
My dear brothers and sisters, Palm Sunday is not only about us remembering how Jesus entered Jerusalem, but it is about how we follow him into Jerusalem as well. Christ Jesus throughout his life taught us to pray, to forgive, to love, to tend, to show mercy, to be patient and endure; yet only when we begin to follow him do we in fact understand how we live out these commandments. Only after we follow, will we find him. That is why St. Paul reminds us to not to become anxious or frantically run around scared. St. Paul teaches us that if we truly are out searching for God like the man in the story, then we must be like the duckling. We must follow our Lord to safety.
How do we go before God? What do we lay before him? Palms, clothes, flowers, branches? What if we lay down our worries, set before God our addictions and personal battles? What if we lay down our sorrow, our struggles and challenges? What if we honestly open our wounds? What if we like the 2 blind men, ignore the entire world, which is telling us we are worthless and weak; what if we keep calling out “Lord have mercy”?
These palms we take home, make into crosses, hold in our hands, remind us that we must first follow Christ and lay down whatever we have not to be trampled but to be lifted up by God, who leads us up into the Heavenly Jerusalem. Holy Week is a very powerful week in the Church full of beautiful prayers and powerful reminders of the life of Christ on earth. However, my dears, it can all become pointless and meaningless if we first don’t pause and ask ourselves, am I searching in random places for a random god, or will I follow God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who hears me, heals me and is leading me? That is why today, as we open the curtains we sing “Lord open the doors of your mercy” so that we may approach. God our Father, open the doors through which we can enter into your presence because we have followed your Son, Christ Jesus all this way and we will continue to follow you even if the entire world turns us away.
Only then, my dears, will we find true healing. Only then, will we enter Heavenly Jerusalem with God. Only then, will we find God and be led to safety. Therefore, may the coming days for all of us, be a time of renewal and life. May each day be a day where we follow God in actions and not merely words. Let us together go before God and say “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”