Palm Sunday 2012 Homily

Servers lead the procession of palms on Passion Sunday 2007 at St. Stephen Catholic Church, Caseyville, IL, my former parish.

Scripture for the day:
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Mark 14:1-15:47

Homily given at St. Mary Catholic Church, Trenton IL, April 1, 2012

By Rev. Joseph C. Rascher, Pastor

Have you ever had an experience of thinking, “I should just cut my losses and get out, now, before things get worse?” Maybe you have been investing for retirement. A couple of years ago, especially when the market went bad and the value of your IRA was shrinking daily, perhaps you thought, “I should cut my losses and get out, now!” Or maybe you’ve been in a relationship with someone, a friend, who is becoming more and more demanding of your attention than you have time to give. The though enters the mind, “I should get end this friendship. It’s not worth it!”

In the Passion of Jesus according to the Gospel of Mark we just heard proclaimed everyone but one person Cuts their loses…
Judas Iscariot is thinking that this Jesus is getting too hard to take. Jesus insists on letting sinners off the hook and isn’t concerned about restoring Israel to glory like I thought he would.
Peter, the best friend wants to be there for Jesus, but in the end self-preservation kicks in and he thinks he’s better off saving my own skin. He cuts his losses so fast, in the instant of time it takes a cock to crow, Peter doesn’t admit he knows Jesus.
Chief priests cut their losses, scared of upsetting the balance, or more so waking the sleeping giant of the civil government of Rome. Rather than risk a crack down on their power in society and the ability of people to worship and maintain the status quo they push for the death of an innocent man on trumped-up charges.
Then there’s Pilate who is afraid of civil unrest and a situation that could cost him power in the Roman Government he’s schemed so hard to get condemns to death a man he’s not convinced needs to die.

It even sounds like Jesus wonders if God, his Father, has given up the cause Jesus has invested his life proclaiming. We hear Jesus saying, “My God, My God – why have you forsaken me?”

Actually, this is Jesus’ statement of faith. Jesus is quoting Psalm 22 (our responsorial psalm this morning). It’s like he’s saying to anyone who will listen

“You want to know what I believe? You want to understand why I’m willing to go through this torture and die? Check out the Psalm that begins  “My God, My God…” and remember all the stanzas, read it to the end. Jesus is giving us a title of a song that helps him and us understand what he believes.

What is the end of the Psalm that Christ wants people to recall?

I will proclaim your name to my brethren;
          in the midst of the assembly I will praise you:
You who fear the LORD, praise him;
          all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;
revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

Jesus is saying, “I will not cut and run! I will not give up on God my Father! He’ll make something good come out of this! I refuse to give up because I know I’ll be praising him, again!

We are here, today, because Jesus didn’t cut his loses and take the safe way out. His death, and our ability to share in the effects of his death by our baptism and Eucharist is why we can face the difficult situations of human existence and not give up hope! In the story of the passion we proclaim that sacrificial love triumphs over every thing that is evil, even death. Everything that seeks to diminish human life is powerless in the light of the resurrection of Jesus that was only possible because the Christ didn’t cut his losses and take the safe way out.

We live in a world where looking out for yourself and protecting what you got is the norm. If we say we claim to follow Jesus, (and that is what we did by taking part in the procession with blessed palms this morning) then we better be ready to risk everything, including our life, when the time comes, and bet it all on the hope that God is faithful.

Those who refuse to take a chance on the truth of the Name above all other names and worry about saving their own skin we’ll be nothing more than a bit players in the drama of eternity, like Judas, the chief priests and Pilate.

Those who cut and run to a false safety perhaps are like the character the Gospel mentions, a young man covered only in a linen cloth who runs off naked. Think about it. Christ is wrapped in a linen cloth after death and placed in the tomb to await the resurrection. Baptized people are clothed in white (linen) garments after burial with Christ in the tomb of the font. The “naked runner” might be a symbol of baptized folks who cut their losses and run, abandoning faith and trust in the Father by leaving the church or sinning greatly. Without faith, without membership in the church, cutting your losses and running, people are left as defenseless as a naked man, exposed to danger, the potential victim of all sorts of forces that can injure a human.

Because we’re members of the church, forgiven of our sinful lapses in courage to witness to the Gospel like Peter is on Easter morning on the beach sharing a breakfast of fish with the risen Christ. Peter is the symbol of the church in the Gospel narratives. At least we have the hope of being redeemed and restored to eternal friendship with Christ if we remain in union with the church. We will be restored to life by the power of Jesus’ sacrificial death we participate in by our willingness to allow his mercy to be part of our life as we follow the Way of the Cross until the day we die in union with the Church, his body on earth.

With Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses and Salome, we wait on this side of the grave, bravely facing what ever happens to us, to see the day our trust in God is vindicated. We refuse to run away from tragedy and trust the truth of Jesus is our truth. God will not disappoint. We hope, we trust, we believe the stone will be rolled back from our graves, too.

© 2012, Rev. Joseph C. Rascher

Children waving palm branches in the Palm Sunday procession at St. Stephen, Caseyville IL,  2007

Hosanna! Hosanna! Let us follow Jesus to his death, as trusting as children who know their parents will protect them and give them what they need to live.

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About frjcrascher

Pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Trenton, IL View all posts by frjcrascher

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