Homily Palm Sunday 2nd April 2023
The reading of the Passion is from the Gospel of Matthew. The imagery is simple and brutal. It is that of a human being taunted and tortured by other human beings, that of great suffering which human beings choose to inflict on others.
But this time the victim of human cruelty was so much more than human. Christ was the Son of God. The creator of all that is good in human nature freely took on himself all that is evil in that nature. And that is the mystery. Christ did not have to suffer. He chose to. He was not overpowered by human cruelty, rather he submitted himself to it. On the Cross, he was not simply victim, he was priest as well.
Christ could have chosen any other course. But he chose that course, and he had done so centuries before the time of calvary. It is as thought the crucifixion were really only one in a series of events that had been set in motion at the very beginning. The first time that God looked at humankind, and chose what he saw, not simply as more of his creatures, but as his people, the people with whom he would remain no matter what, it was as tough the crucifixion had already begun.
And had he chosen otherwise, had he chosen not to be the priest-victim, not to endure the worst that his creatures could do to him, then he would have still been God, but we would not have been his people.
Well, why? What is there about the bond, the relationship between God and humanity that can twist the patience and faithfulness of Christ into a sentence of death.
And again, Matthew’s answer is simple and direct, it is sin. Christ’s faithfulness led to calvary because he was alone in that faithfulness. The evil of sin, then is seen not only in the torture that Christ endured, but in the fact that he endured it alone. It is the abandonment of Christ, the faithfulness of even those who professed to follow him, those followers who simply become ‘the crowd’, that is, the true revelation of the sin of humankind.
Lent will, again, come to an end for us this week. I hope that this season has been for each of us truly a season of penance, of self-examination, of confronting the heartlessness, the dullness in our lives. Sin, once it is recognised and rejected, has lost its power over us. We are not all slaves to the past, to our habits, to our weakness. We are God’s people, and we have a share in everything that is his.
And just as surely as we have again and again taken part in his crucifixion, so we shall always, as often as we choose to do so, take part in his rising again.