Homily on Passion Sunday, 2012
The Hebrew people traveled from far and wide to come to Jerusalem on the days leading up to Passover. There, among thousands of other religious pilgrims, they were aided by the temple priests in offering sacrifice to God, in paying him homage. They believed that Jerusalem was Holy, the place where God had chosen to dwell with his people. Guarded deep within the temple was the holy of holies, God’s sanctuary where only the just, only the upright of heart, those who had been purified, could enter. The temple was a place set apart: a sacred space, a holy space – a place where the prophet Isaiah had promised all people would one day come to worship the living God and find new life.
Yet, for all its vastness and treasures, for all its priests and incense, the temple was in need of cleansing. During the third Sunday of lent we heard of Christ’s first entry into Jerusalem,
into the temple area. On that day he came with ominous words, overturning tables and speaking of destruction. “Destroy this temple,” he had said, “and I will rebuild it in three days.”
The temple needed to be reconstructed, renewed, reformed in order for Isaiah’s prophecy to be fulfilled. It needed to be built on a new foundation, a foundation free of rivalry and greed, arrogance and hatred, the weaknesses of every foundation built with human hands.
Today, as he enters its gates, the shouts of Hosanna that ring from Jerusalem’s streets signify the beginning of Jesus great and final work: the complete rebuilding of God’s temple.
Today he begins the final cleansing of the temple, the final sacrifice that will wipe away all stains and weakness and allow all of humanity to freely worship God without fear. He establishes a new a new temple: the temple, St. John tells us in the Gospel, of his body. A temple not made with human hands, but with the hands of God himself. And in the midst of that temple, in the heart of that temple he establishes a new Holy of Holies: no longer a place, but an action, his saving passion, death, and resurrection. This sacrifice of God who gives his life for us is the presence of God that dwells within the temple of his body, the Church, that is the source of her unity and strength. Our Eucharist: the Passion, death, and resurrection of Christ truly present among us, his life offered for us.
And so as we cross the threshold of Holy Week, we enter into the new Holy of Holies, the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord. We no longer journey to Jerusalem, to a place. It is the time that Christ asks us to consecrate, to lay down before him just as cloaks and branches were laid before him in Jerusalem. The Holy of Holies, the passion of our Lord continues to unfold in our midst, here and now our God comes to save us. We stand on holy ground, in a holy time, a holy week.
What should we lay at his feet this week? Will we just allow this week to pass us by like any other?
Will we watch him ride by and say afterward “Well, that was nice.” Or will we truly stop for a moment and place his work, his life that he pours out for us in its rightful place in our lives: dead center.
What does that mean this week? Follow his passion tomorrow in the Way of the Cross procession – reflect on the depth of his love for us and his example for you of how to love others.
Will you let your life, your time, this week be governed by your work, your errands, your favorite television programs or games, or will you place your time at the feet of the Lord, placing him first? For at least one week of the year will we place him first and make the rest of our lives fit around his time, his schedule. Begin and end each day in prayer with him – not a hurried, memorized prayer, but a prayer from the heart, a conversation with him.
Come to Mass this week, especially to Mass on Holy Thursday and to the liturgy on Good Friday. Go to confession. Spend time reading through one of the Gospel accounts of our Lord’s passion. Take some time to spend with your children or others about our faith, about what this week means to us. Go and help a family member, friend or neighbor in need, seek out opportunities to perform acts of kindness. Allow this to be a Holy Week, not just in name, but in fact, in the way that you spend your time, the way that you prioritize your live in these days.
We enter the Holy of Holies, holy ground, holy week. Our Lord gave everything for us – was faithful to the end because he loved us. He calls us to follow his example: to lay our lives, and that means our time, at the feet of our loving God, who comes to save us.