The Bishops Homily – Palm/Passion Sunday

Palm/Passion Sunday
Blessing of Palms: Mt. 21: 1-11
Is. 50: 4-7
Phil. 2: 6-11
Mt. 26:14-27: 66

INTRODUCTION: On Palm Sunday, our Gospel reading is from one of the Passion Narratives. For Cycle A, the Passion is from St. Matthew. All the four Gospels end with the Passion. The Gospel is but “the Passion with a very long introduction.” In Mt.’s Passion, Jesus journeys towards death into the far country of sin, all forms of human dysfunction that separates us from the love of God. Throughout Mt.’s Gospel, Jesus is presented as the friend of sinners: “I have not come for the healthy but for the sick.” (Mt.2:17)

Throughout his life, he associates with sinners and the marginalized. Now in death, Jesus meets this cacophony of sin in order to bring the Divine Life there. Jesus goes into sin as God’s obedience/fidelity and thereby absorbs its power and takes it away. How do we deal with sin? By sinning in return! This is the way of the world: sin battles sin. In Mt.’s Passion at the end of Jesus’ life, all forms of human dysfunction are on display and into that far country, Jesus goes!

(1) How does Mt.’s Passion open up? With BETRAYAL! For 30 pieces of silver Judas betrays Jesus his friend, his mentor, and his Lord. In Dante’s Divine Comedy, traders are placed at the lowest realm of hell! Dante saw betrayal as the greatest of sins for it is turning one’s back from a friend for some self-interest.

(2) In Gethsemani, after the Last Supper, Jesus goes to pray alone away from his three favorite disciples to struggle with the will of his Father about the need of his impending death and what were his disciples doing? Sleeping! This is another form of sin — SLOTH, spiritual laziness, or indifference. We just don’t care! In Rev. 3:16 Jesus said, “If you are lukewarm, I will vomit you out!” This is what Jesus is most opposed to!

*Judas arrived “accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs to arrest him.” Whom did they come for? Jesus the Prince of Peace with the message “Resist not evil! Love your enemies!! Pray for those who persecute you. . .” (Mt.5:39-44) Judas with his companions arrive in the Garden with VIOLENCE. The way this sinful world orders itself is through violence. One of Jesus’ disciples in defense of Jesus drew his sword and cut the ear of the High Priest’s servant. What does violence do? Violence cuts off communication. In the midst of violence, no one is listening; no one speaks. Reason is overpowered by violence!

*At the end of the struggle, his disciples all fled. Jesus called them to himself to be made fishers of men but they deserted him. COWARDICE is another face of sin when I know what to do and I can’t muster the courage to do it. “The only way for evil to thrive is for good men to do nothing.”

(3) As the story of Jesus’ encounter with evil intensifies, Jesus is brought to the Sanhedrin, the equivalent to the Supreme Court of the Jewish Nation, where the best men in robes call in a bunch of liars as FALSE WITNESSES who care more for their own gain but care less for the TRUTH.

*At the Courtyard, Peter, undoubtedly ashamed for his desertion of his Master, follows Jesus incognito to know how all this will end, but is recognized by his accent and denied it thrice. One of the most terrible face of sin is scapegoating, a mechanism of forming ourselves into a community around somebody that we can hate. The detail of Peter’s accent gives him away as somebody to hate as companion of Jesus. Those who differ from us, we do not speak to or look at.

*Judas in his despair hangs himself. This is the ugly face of SELF-DESTRUCTION when I feel I am so in the dark that I can’t even bear or forgive myself. This is where Peter and Judas differ. Peter asked forgiveness for his denial of the Master that Judas could not do; he destroys himself!

*The Lord before Pilate, representative of the Roman Empire and spokesman of justice, is condemned to death although he knew Jesus to be innocent. Pilate caves in to the pressure of the crowd fearing the loss of his position. This is ABUSE OF POWER personally whether in the family or in civil government.

CONCLUSION: The good news in all this is that God’s own love has reached out to these human dysfunctions by pouring the Divine Life into them. God does not hate sinners. He journeys into their world and by his truth and his love he absorbs the sins of this world! This is the message of this Passion Week we truly call Holy — mga Banal na Araw!

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches