‘Hail Christ as our Redeemer and Lord’

Bishop marks Palm Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Paul

On March 24, Bishop Raica celebrated Palm Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Paul. The complete text of his homily follows herein.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Passion / Palm Sunday we accompany our Lord during the drama that leads to His suffering, death, anticipating His resurrection. Today captures the main themes that are drawn out during each of the celebrations during this Holy Week.

We begin our journey with the boisterous welcome of Jesus into Jerusalem to the cheers and accolades of the crowd: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” It is a moment when everything at first seems to be going so well! The ministry of Christ was truly effective. Not only His name, but His miracles and mighty deeds were beginning to be known. In a sense, He was becoming more popular than the political establishment and the entrenched religious leaders. Then, suddenly it takes a turn. Everything begins to go wrong. Nothing is right and the crowds who lauded and hailed Him, turn against Him when agitators and activists rile up the crowd. The “Hosannas” quickly turn to “Crucify Him!" It happened so quickly that it could not be slowed down or be stopped. It was amazing that everything our Lord had going for Him – which He knew – would pivot and become drained so quickly because of a sort of mob rule.

Isn’t it true, even during times in our lives, we think everything is fine and then it isn’t? Going well, and then it goes badly. The ups and downs we face ourselves leave us wondering what tomorrow will bring. It leaves us unsettled, wondering what’s going to happen next? Where do we go? Who will console us and understand us? Who will guide us through our own calvaries or personal “ways of the cross” and “valleys of darkness.”

We can reflect on the very nature of service rendered to Jesus when He was at the house of Simon the leper and a woman came unexpectedly and anointed Him with a jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard – a costly aromatic oil. In spite of the protests of His disciples, Jesus reminds them: “Wherever the Gospel is proclaimed, … what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

Then the recounting of the Last Supper in which Jesus instituted the priesthood and the Eucharist for us. They had to wonder why this night would be different from every other night – and indeed every other experience of Passover they celebrated.

He then reminds us of the necessity to pray, even when we are tired. Watch and pray that “you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Then the betrayal of Judas for about 30 pieces of silver which led to Jesus’ arrest by the authorities followed by a show trial that became more of an appeasement of the agitated crowd than the serene pursuit of truth.

Then His condemnation of a capital crime – that it would be better for one person to die than to lose a whole nation, as Caiaphas noted. And the carrying out of the penalty of crucifixion with His mother, the women, and others as helpless observers.

What amazes me even more is how Jesus accepted His outcome, knowing that the sacrifice of His life would result in something quite unexpected, yet already known to Him – the salvation of the world.

Today, we are reminded of the great gift Jesus is for us. He saves us from our sins and gives us the prospect of eternal life in the great act of salvation and redemption.

Curious as it is, here in the Gospel of Mark, we are told at the very beginning of the Gospel: “Here begins the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The climax of Mark’s Gospel given us by an unlikely unbelieving Roman centurion: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” 

It was the centurion’s profession of faith, given in non-suspect time, that gives greater belief to his statement enabling us to look with new eyes of faith and see the presence of Christ today happening around us. 

May our participation in the events of this week open our eyes, open our ears, open our minds, and open our hearts to see the presence of Christ today in our sisters and brothers and those in need.

This week is a sort of retreat for us. Each day with some new dimension for our consideration and prayer leading up to Christ’s eventual resurrection and beyond. Yes, we know the rest of the story and can easily take everything we believe for granted. I would suggest for your consideration, after hearing the number of people involved in these scenes of the passion account we have just heard, where are you in these various moments? What scene can you put yourself in such a way that you can observe, accompany, try to understand what they were experiencing at the time? Can we, then, accompany Jesus during these days? Can we walk with Him? With His mother? With His disciples? And with all those who played a part in witnessing this saving passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Finally, take the palm home and put it in a prominent place to remind you of the need to hail Christ as our Redeemer and Lord.

The schedule for the remainder of the week is found in the bulletin and the Cathedral website, I hope you will consider coming to the various events as a personal journey of faith this year.  During this Eucharistic revival year, we can better understand the foundations of our faith that bring us together every week around the table of God’s Word and His altar where the effects of our salvation are proclaimed.

I wish you all a very blessed Holy Week and Easter!