Palm Sunday by Abbot Stan Gumula

Homily of 25th March 2018

Isaiah 50: 4 – 7;  Philippians 2: 6 – 11;  Mark 14: 1 – 15: 47  with John 12: 12 – 16 at the blessing of palms

Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel…. Fear no more, O daughter Zion; see, your king comes, seated upon an ass’s colt.

So, we heard when we blessed our palms and began our procession this morning.  We proclaimed Christ as our King, the one who is to come.  We waved our branches and sang ‘Hosanna Filio David, Hosanna to the Son of David‘ and therefore, like David, a King.  And this is who Jesus is: our King, our Sovereign, the One to whom we owe our allegiance, our leader in the battle against evil and the sin which clings to us, the One for whom we spend our lives and whose love en-flames our hearts.  But what kind of a King is Jesus?  Just what does it mean when we say: Christ is our King?  What is Jesus’ kingship all about?  As I read and meditated on the Scriptures we have heard this morning and the songs we have sung both this morning and in our Liturgy of the Hours, I have been drawn to make more my own this Kingship of Jesus.

The Brothers will tell you that each year for the past nine years I have chosen a theme for Holy Week.  Through the lens of this theme I have tried to see how each of our four major liturgies (Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Paschal Vigil) develops and helps us to understand this theme.  And so this year, with you, I would like to look at Jesus’ Kingship and how each of these liturgies helps us to get a fuller grasp and vision of what it means to say that Jesus is our King.  In this way we may be drawn into a greater love and service of him as our King.

What struck me today was the overwhelming sense of Jesus’ humility.  Jesus’ Kingship is one of humbleness.  Have you ever seen the thrones that earthly rulers and kings choose to seat upon?  They are elaborate.  Highly polished stone or wood, solid furniture.  Ornately carved and often embedded with jewels.  They are awe-inspiring works of art.  I saw several of them in Rome last September.  They breathe forth power and sovereignty.  The long Gospel we have just heard makes it abundantly clear that Jesus’ throne is quite different.  To put it bluntly: Jesus’s throne is the cross.  Our ancestors in the faith coined a phrase to capture this reality.  They said that the cross is the ‘royal seat of God.’  Look at the cross, my sisters and brothers.  Look at the cross and see the royal seat of God.  Which one of us would choose such a throne?  What earthly king would make such a choice?  Can you imagine our President — or the President of any nation — choosing such a chair?  Not me!  As Benedict XVI said to a group cardinals he had just made, “You are princes, but of a Crucified King.”  Jesus’ throne is the cross.

Humbleness.  Such is the mark of Jesus’ Kingship in today’s liturgy.  As we sing at Vespers: Humble Savior, for what glory do you enter the city?  And the answer is given us: you have come to climb the hill of Calvary, bearing your own cross.  We ask that our eyes might be opened to see such humble glory.

Humbleness in his choice of a throne.  Humbleness also in the stead on which he chose to enter the Holy City.  Most kings and sovereigns will choose the most stately of animals, the best stallion.  I visualize the tremendous horse ridden by the first official emperor of Rome.  What power, what strength, what beauty was in that animal.  Or in our present day, they ride in the most luxurious of cars, equipped with every sort of convenience.  Not Jesus.  He chose a humble donkey’s colt.  A beast of burden, chosen only to do menial tasks.  Jesus chooses the lowly, the poor, things that are not to put to shame the things that are.

Humbleness in the choice of his throne.  Humbleness in his choice of his means of transportation.  And finally, (for today), humbleness in his choice of the way he exercises his power.  Jesus does not lead by force.  Jesus does not consolidate his power by weapons, by a mighty arsenal of swords and guns and fire power.  Jesus overcomes evil by love.  Jesus rules by offering forgiveness.  Jesus is King by serving.  He emptied himself, Saint Paul proclaimed to us.  Emptied a while of all his brightness Jesus entered thus the glorious fight, we sang throughout our long Gospel.  And by this humbleness Jesus shows us the face of God as the face of mercy.  The Pantocrator before whom we bow and adore is the humble Jesus who is mercy within mercy within mercy.

Jesus, our King, shows us the way.  Let us walk in humbleness, let us choose the last place, let us be satisfied with less — not in a morbid way, but in the way that brings us the deep joy of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus has taught us that there is nothing greater than to lay down our lives for our friends.  That it is in giving that we receive.  Reconciliation comes when we embrace differences and show the face of mercy to everyone.

Let us walk with our King on this way of the Cross and know the joy never ending of his love and mercy.