C Cycle – Palm Sunday 2022
Lk. 22: 14-23, 56
Isn’t it amazing how quickly we can change our minds and completely reverse our long held beliefs? Society has changed the concept of marriage with surveys showing the majority of young couples today are cohabitating and opting not to marry. Church attendance in the United States has dropped from a high of 70% in 1970 to 45% in 2019 and is continuing to decline. Another survey shows individuals do not believing in the presence of God or at best believe they do not need an organized religion to be spiritual.
It makes you wonder how easily society can influenced us, or by the people around us and by the things that happen to us. How quickly we question the goodness of God or his love when disasters hit us. Has society changed at all from the time of Christ to now? Or is fickleness a part of our spiritual journey? I have always found the exuberance of the crowd greeting Jesus as he enters Jerusalem something to experience. That happened on a Palm Sunday when I was at a conference and the closing mass on Palm Sunday had 50 priest walking in waving palm branches and shouting Hosanna in the highest.
But did you ever note how quickly the crowd that greeted Jesus changed to their loud cries of “crucify him.” He did nothing at all to them but show up in Jerusalem and their joyous welcome turned into a rejection and condemnation.
We know we would not be among them for our faith in Christ is strong. Peter thought that his faith in Christ was so strong he would defend him. But when that woman challenged him, he denied Christ. The disciples on the road to Emmaus believed in him, but after his crucifixion they lost hope and were despondent. It is easy in this the 21st century to believe that our faith is strong enough to withstand any challenge. At least those of us who still believe enough to show up on Sunday believe that we will stand firm. But will we or will we shrink in the face of things which assail us, things which we do not understand why God allows it to happen.
How do we explain to a young wife and her children the death of a husband when they prayed for his cancer to be healed? Where is God when you need him? Where was the miracle worker who raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, walked on water, and brought hope to the people? All they saw was a bloodied, man, accused of blasphemy who did nothing to stop the brutality inflicted upon him. How can that individual be the Son of God, the Messiah would set them free. All they saw was a powerless man who could not set himself free.
How easy it is to misunderstand the plan of God and the sacrifice of his son for the forgiveness of our sins. The truth is we are no different than those gathered in the courtyard that day. We cannot get beyond what we understand is possible to see how things we cannot understand can give us what we cannot attain on our own. We understand from an early age how things we do wrong can only be rectified by our doing something to atone for our wrongdoing. We must go an apologize, or restore what we destroyed, and demean ourselves in the process. Forgiveness comes at us paying a price.
From an early age we are taught that we must make the sacrifice to regain the approval of our parents and those we offended by our actions. That is not how salvation works. It is free and there is nothing we can do to gain it or merit it.
Yet, we continue to seek to appease God instead of embracing the forgiveness offered us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That means we must always celebrate him and proclaim him as Lord and Savior. Anything less only means we have become our own salvation and that my brothers and sisters is blasphemy. We have become part of the crowd looking on his broken body and failing to grasp the meaning of what happened that day.
What happened is more than we deserve. God so loved the world he gave his only son so that those who believe may not perish but have eternal life. It is a gift we need to embrace by inviting Jesus Christ into our lives. He is going to endure the most horrific of flogging, degradation, humiliation, and death for our sins. All of it was God’s plan to change us and offer us a new life, a new identity as sons and daughters. We are the prodigal sons being restored and being cleansed by the father’s son. We are the woman caught in adultery whose sin Jesus does not condemn because he knows his death will pay the penalty for us. We are the individuals hanging on the cross beside Jesus asking him to remember us.
We are the ones who ae called to respond to the call of Christ to follow him and become disciples. We have two choices. We can shout our hosannahs and declare him as Lord, the one who sets us free. Or we can join the crowd who no longer believes they need God in their lives. Remaining in the temple, full of self-righteousness, which those Pharisees, Chief Priests and scribes did is not the answer. It is what God calls lukewarm and he said plainly those who are lukewarm, “…because you are lukewarm, I will spew you out of my mouth (Rev. 3: 16).