The Most Overwhelming Work of God’s Love
Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday 2020
The Palm Sunday celebration always begins
by recalling the “triumphal” entry of Jesus into Jerusalem,
cloaks and palm branches covering His pathway...
Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!
Jesus’ arrival fulfills a prophecy from the prophet Zechariah (9:9):
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey.
I can’t help but think of buck-tooth Donkey from Shrek.
Why not a little more Marvel super-hero,
with Jesus seated upon a noble and strong white horse,
like that magnificently referenced twice in the Book of Revelation?
In chapter 6 (verse 2):
… a white horse! Its rider had a bow; a crown was given to him,
and he came out conquering and to conquer.
In chapter 19 (verse 11):
… a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True,
and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
Now we’re talking triumphal. But a donkey? Really? Why?
Perhaps, because the King of Peace, not a super-hero, not here to make war,
as we understand and tragically experience it.
The apparent lack of triumph may perhaps be disappointing for some of us.
Jesus’ arrival also fulfils the first part of the same prophecy from Zechariah:
“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.”
We need not be afraid.
God always keeps His promises!
Our King is coming and coming humbly.
The humble arrival means that Jesus enters
every frightening situation that may be ours,
When it comes to God, to Jesus, “triumphal” refers to love not power.
True love can reach that which we deem unreachable. That is triumph.
Jesus is definitely powerful, all-powerful,
but His power is always at the service of His love.
He has no ego issues, no need to manifest prowess.
As suggested, we are not simply remembering a past event.
We continue to celebrate, to experience triumphal entry
each time the Lord comes.
We do so in a special way when we gather around this altar.
Indeed, as we move to the altar in our celebration, we proclaim
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
The Eucharist, Communion is a “triumphal” entry.
The Eucharist is our King coming, humbly, in the silence of divine love.
“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.”
Today’s celebration opens this Holy Week.
Love is what makes this week holy.
I know that I’ve referred to this definition many times…
I will continue to do so until it makes its way onto your fridge
or into your diary or even somewhere in your phone:
“Holiness is the purity of divine love” (St. Thomas Aquinas, +1274),
And, as St. Paul says in I Corinthians 13: “Love never fails”.
And, as St. Paul of the Cross, 17th-century Italian monk and mystic, says,
The Passion of Christ
is the greatest and most overwhelming work of God’s love.
Jesus is King in laying down His life for us.
This is what love does—and love must do.
Our King of Peace, comes to reign in mercy, not by “lording it over us.”
He comes to reign from within, in our hearts.
Not always easy to believe or grasp, for triumphant kings normally do not die.
Our King suffers and dies--in order fully to reign as king.
And, along the journey to His death, Jesus willingly suffers
everything that normally “kills” the human heart:
If you think that there are deal-breakers in your life: this isn’t really for you,
this much love is impossible, think twice.
The Christ Who is coming to us loves even the betrayer,
and He suffers our insults with love’s ultimate expression, forgiveness.
We worship a Savior who “did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited”, but humbled and emptied himself
“to the point of death, even death on a cross”,
a Savior Who thus can save us from death and its cause, sin,
Who can save us, when needed, from our selves.
We worship a God who pursues us with relentless, daunting love
and Who ultimately will enter the darkness and dankness of the grave
to say even here, here I will not be without you.
Although the suffering in our lives and world may incline you to think
that God stands an observer at a distance, on safe sidelines, think twice.
His abundant grace is hiding in, with, and under all the brokenness.
Let us lay our hearts on the path for Christ, and be in awe of
and surrender to the One Who “cometh in the name of the Lord.”
Easter Vigil 2022
Alleluia, Christ is risen! (response: The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!)
“Alleluia”! (literally, in the Hebrew: "All hail to Him Who is!")
The One Who is, eternal, Whom no one and nothing can suppress.
Now, some of you may not particularly feel like singing Alleluia, because
emotionally disconnected, tired, confused, indifferent, sad, angry, unworthy…
Thankfully, we gather and are connected deeper than feeling, as people of faith,
people graced to touch the Eternal One Who is beyond emotional grasp,
closer and more real and more steadily present, however, than any emotion.
We cannot prove Christ’s resurrection.
Sure, there are testimonies, but they are always a matter of faith, not proof.
We believe in Christ. We believe Christ. We believe Christ is risen.
Our faith may, at times, seem overwhelmed by what we are feeling and fragile,
but it is still there and a little is all we need.
In this evening’s passage from the letter to the Romans,
Saint Paul declares, in faith, that the Risen Lord touches and changes us:
“Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,
so that we too might walk in newness of life…
Consider yourselves alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
The Christian Life: so touched and changed by the Risen Lord
that we are alive forever.
What is this force that animates Jesus in His victory over death,
and, by gracious gift, animates us, such that we live forever?
It is called divine love,
all-powerful, infinite love forever gushing forth from the heart of God.
is all-powerful, infinite love forever gushing forth from the heart of God.
Christ’s resurrection is thus the final victory over all that hinders love.
This gospel, from Luke 24, a gospel of perplexity and fear and amazement,
helps us as we seek to re-discover and participate in this victorious love.
What do we witness?
As their first act at early dawn, the women run to the tomb.
When he hears their testimony, Peter runs to the tomb.
Of course, initially, to the apostles, the words of the women “seemed an idle tale.”
It might be tempting to presume arrogant chauvinism, but remember the simple fact
that, for the apostles, like us, Christ’s resurrection is a matter of faith, not proof.
And Peter, after all, is rather quick to run, like the women.
Indeed, there is a lot of running—like little kids!
This is the Amazing Race!
Only, in this one, they all win, we all win!
There is an unusual moment, however: although moved by love to run
and understandably perplexed by “the stone rolled away from the tomb”,
in response to the “two men in dazzling clothes”, “the women were terrified.”
Of what are these loving women afraid?
Jesuit priest, John Topel, in a 2012 article, “What Were the Women Afraid Of?”
says that one thing they may be afraid of is “…the disciples’ need to surrender
to a divine holiness that empowers life in the new age.”
Although desirous, and singing “alleluia” in faith,
we too may also find ourselves strangely afraid, afraid of the bigness of life in Christ.
I often am. I am often trying to tame Jesus, to barter, to justify and excuse myself:
rather small-minded and small-hearted.
Then Jesus, in His patient kindness, as He does the women in Matthew’s gospel, says
“do not be afraid.”
The Risen Lord touches our hearts unconditionally.
Jesus makes this gifted life possible.
In response, let us, by choice in faith, not by feeling,
like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, the other women—Peter,
run to Jesus with hopeful desire and joyful haste.
We have every reason to rejoice.
If death has not stopped Christ, none of our challenges will.
As contemporary theologian, Reba McEntire (country singer from Oklahoma!), says,
“Easter is very important to me, it’s a second chance.”
 (Journal of Theological Interpretation, Vol. 6, No. 1, Penn State University Press)