Homily for Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord in Year A 2020, 5 April 2020
Readings: Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Matt 27:11-54
Despite the huge disruption, chaos, anxiety, sorrow and grief that it generates around the world, the coronavirus pandemic does have some silver lining. It has given the entire planet some breathing space, a much-needed respite, albeit only temporarily. We are seeing a significant reduction in carbon emissions into the atmosphere, the oceans, the rivers and the roads. In Venice, Italy and I suspect in other overvisited cities, the shutdown has been a real blessing for the water and the whole marine ecosystem. Less cruise ships, planes, cars and human activities means a reprieve and a jubilee for Mother Nature to replenish itself.
Perhaps, if there is a lesson for us to learn, the pandemic should be putting everything in perspective for us all. It should serve as a warning for us to make some fundamental changes to the way we live. We need a radical new way of living that brings harmony and sustainability to all of life. We need to think and act beyond self-interest, national interest and even human interest to a more whole of life inclusive approach.
Pope Francis made this dramatic appeal to the whole world when he appeared alone at St Peter’s Square last week. He said the pandemic uncovers our false certainties around which we construct our projects, habits and priorities. When carry these things on without regard for the poor, the afflicted and the ailing planet, the consequences can only be destructive. When we are out of touch with the natural world and our spiritual roots, we deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.
This crisis, in other words, is a symptom of a deeper malaise. We have alienated ourselves from the God of life and love. We have become dull to the cry of God’s poor and the cry of God’s creation.
Palm or Passion Sunday is not just a remembrance of what happened to Jesus 2000 years ago. It is an opportunity for us to recognise our own sinfulness that contributes to the suffering of Body of Christ, now, at this moment, in the poor, the dispossessed, the marginalised and our wounded Mother Earth.
Our entrance into Holy Week calls us to join with the passion of our Lord, to renew our commitment to heal and transform our wounded humanity and broken earth. God in Christ is involved with the pain and suffering of our world. God is involved in our quest for justice, peace and the flourishing of all creation. The victory of shalom is won by the awesome power of compassionate love, in and through solidarity with those who suffer. This is why Christians and people of good will join in the traditional peace rally around the world.
Passion Sunday galvanises us to transformative action, for it gives us a glimpse of the victory of love over hatred and life over death. It was God’s unflinching fidelity, his unconditional love in Jesus that brought about the victory of shalom. We are therefore encouraged to live more fully, more creatively, more boldly, more at the periphery so that God’s kingdom of justice may prevail. The triumph of love, the joy of the Gospel spurs us on.
May we follow the example of the Suffering Servant who shows us the way of disarming hatred with love, evil with goodness, violence with benevolence, indifference with compassion. May our commitment to heal and transform our wounded humanity and our broken earth be brought to fruition in accordance with God’s plan in Christ.
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