Fabulous attendances at services this morning meant we eventually run out of palm crosses. I apologise if you went home bereft but delight in the reason! It really is encouraging to witness signs of growth in the parish.
During the homily we pondered the contradiction in the liturgy. How was it Christ was cheered into Jerusalem one moment only to be abandoned within the week? Yet this contradiction exists in the life of every believer. We too can show great love for the Lord at one moment only to betray him the next in a moment of weakness and sin. It is a struggle to remain faithful despite our intentions. Truly ours are the sins that nailed him to the tree, ours the lives in need of salvation. Thank goodness Holy week is here.
We also recalled how Christ’s entry into Jerusalem was a parody. For Pilate too, in a show of power, rode into Jerusalem that day for Passover, his mighty army drilled and marching before him. Pilate led the kingdom of this world, to quell any threat of insurrection. A fallen kingdom that lives in every generation and dominates by abuse of power and use of violence.
Christ rode out on a humble donkey for that is how monarchs in the ancient world went in peace to greet an enemy. Christ desired to confront the kingdom of this world but not with force or cruelty. His rule was love, his method was personal invitation. An invitation this world always rejects for it seeks self gratification and not authentic service to the Lord. So when the two kingdoms collide the greatest drama in history unfolds. The kingdom of this world counters love with hate and attempts to destroy Christ forever by nailing him to a tree. He in turn bore it in love and thereby overthrew hate and defeated death itself by means of his resurrection.
The greatest lie the devil ever told is to convince Christians they can serve both kingdoms in peace. Anyone doubting this need only meditate the Stations of the Cross to see what the powers of this world do when they encounter God incarnate. So eventually we must choose. A choice for every generation. Are we for the world or Christ? To whom do we owe our ultimate allegiance?
At the reformation, for example, most Catholic bishops failed Christ by meekly bowing the knee to the state. St. John Fisher stood up for Christ and his eternal word and paid with his head. Or consider, in our day, how Isis attempts again to crush the Christian presence but is countered by the witness of a new generation of martyrs who meet the violence with love and stand firm in their faith for the Lord.
What of us? Who do we choose? What do our beliefs, opinions, choices and behaviour suggest? Are we for Christ or this world? An attempt to keep a foot in each camp will only hold so long. Eventually we come down on one side or the other- by action or inaction I might add! So when the culture and faith collide- as they must and presently do- do we stand with the teaching of the church in all ages or seek a path of comfort via capitulation and compromise?
Holy week is here. Which Kingdom will you serve? To what extent do you follow in the footsteps of martyrs and saints?