Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron gave the following homily at Mass on Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
There is a way that the Liturgy of the Word for the Mass that the Church celebrates on this day can seem almost schizophrenic. One moment we hear the gospel of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we carry palms and join in singing “Hosanna to the son of David!” And then, a few minutes later, we have all of these scripture texts which present us – Matthew’s version with all the details of our Lord’s passion, his repudiation by the leaders of his own people, and his unjust condemnation by the romans. We have the text from Philippians, which so eloquently speaks of the meaning of the Lord’s death. So beautiful that the Church has composed a masterpiece of chant which we heard as the Gradual, the Gospel acclamation. The psalm, perhaps to my mind one of the most touching moments of the Liturgy of the Word, when by singing we make our own the interior sentiments of Jesus – “My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?”
These two pieces, to some ways of thinking, are a contrast. Perhaps even a contradiction, not at all to be put together. But if we were to think that way, we would be of the same kind of mind as the bystanders in today’s passion narrative, who looked at Jesus and said, “He saved others, why can’t he save himself?” Looking at his crucifixion as if it was the final and definitive proof that he was an imposter and not loved by the Father.
But we don’t, of course, see it that way. We are disciples of Jesus. We know that he is the Lord. Not because we’re the smartest or the most clever people in the world, but because God has given us the gift of faith. These two things belong together. Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Because what we proclaim on Palm Sunday — that He is the son of David, coming in the name of the Lord — reaches its fulfillment on Calvary. And he will be vindicated on the third day.
And so in this Holy Week, as we remember all of the events of our Lord’s passion and death and resurrection, it falls today particularly for the Christian people to proclaim that the crucified one is not a failure, but he is our King. There is a problem, I think, for us as citizens as a democratic republic as we use that term for the Lord Jesus. It can perhaps be reminiscent of a time far-gone, perhaps even fairy tales. But to say that the crucified one is our King and has come into his kingdom, by enduring the cross, is to say that he is my ruler. That the Lord Jesus is the one who measures me, and all that I think and all that I do, and all of my plans. I’d ask us not to apply this so much right now to his rule, his kingship over every space.
But let’s think about time for a minute. Jesus Christ rules over our past, our present and our future. Over my past. Jesus Christ and him crucified — who loved me and you enough to die for us and make expiation for our sins — Jesus Christ measures everything that has occurred. All that belongs to the past. And what falls short of his love, the kind of love he has shown, the love he has given us — that’s sin. And we confess it. Jesus Christ is Lord, the ruler of Today. The past and the future exist as things we think about. Today is happening. And Christ is Lord of this moment, and invites you and me at this moment to be renewed in our allegiance to him. And the future. Jesus Christ is ruler of all of our plans, all of our expectations, all of what we look for to count as success and what we hope to avoid as failure or tragedy. Jesus Christ rules, and so whatever may befall us, we know if we abandon ourselves to him, it will be a way to grow closer to the Father through him.
And speaking about the future then, I wish particularly to offer a word of welcome to those who are engaged in the ministries of youth and young adults here in the Archdiocese, who have accepted my invitation to be present today. I think of you particularly as what I might call sacraments – prophetic signs, as it were. A reminder to all of us about letting Jesus Christ be Lord of the future. You are at a point in your lives where the future is very much on your mind. You prepare for it. You make choices in view of it, about your career, about how you will live. Marriage, or full time service to the Gospel. Who will be your partner. What life will be like. And your being here today is a witness to your own acceptance of the lordship of Jesus, accepting him as your King. And so, as part of what we’re calling in the Archdiocese as our response to the New Evangelization, you are being evangelists here in the Cathedral today. To me, you are a call to accept anew and with fresh vigor the Good News that he who was crucified is alive. You are prophesying to me of my own need to put aside my sins and my fear and my selfishness, and accept Christ as my Lord, to believe in him anew. And I praise and thank God for your witness, for your commitment to the crucified one as Lord and King.
And now to conclude, let’s think about this day, this moment again, and Jesus’ reigning at this moment. Recall that we never celebrate the holy Eucharist, the holy sacrifice, without shouting out, acclaiming, “Hosanna!” Kind of old Hebrew form of what I understand is what is done in the military with their shout of “Hoo-rah!” A kind of acclamation of victory. Hosanna. This hour, at this altar i this Cathedral, in this sacrament — this most blessed sacrament — it is our privilege to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. And to have him, once dead, now alive, in our presence. And to acknowledge that we know who he is, the son of David, the one who was promised of old. The one who has come in the name of his Father. And the one who is our victor.
We adore thee o Christ and we praise thee, because by thy holy cross though has redeemed the World.