Monsignor Yennock's Palm Sunday Homily - April 5, 2020

Apr 6, 2020

PALM SUNDAY—APRIL 5, 2020

A FEW YEARS AGO I VISITED A MAN IN THE HOSPITAL. HE WAS NOT PRACTICING HIS FAITH. ON THE OUTSIDE HE SEEMED DISTANT AND DEFENSIVE. BUT UNDERNEATH ALL OF THAT THERE WAS SOMETHING VERY GOOD ABOUT HIM. HE WAS NEAR DEATH. I DIDN’T KNOW QUITE WHAT TO SAY TO HIM. THERE WASN’T MUCH TIME LEFT.

I TOOK A RISK AND I SAID TELL ME ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR FATHER. HIS EYES BEGAN TO WATER AND HE BROKE DOWN AND SOBBED. HE SAID FATHER WHEN I WAS 12 YEARS OLD MY FATHER MADE IT VERY CLEAR TO ME THAT HE DIDN’T CARE WHAT HAPPENED TO ME. I HAVE NOT SEEN HIM SINCE. MY HEART WENT OUT TO THIS MAN WHO NEVER KNEW THE LOVE OF A FATHER. IS THAT WHY HE HAD SUCH A DISTANT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD OUR FATHER?

HE SAID: I WAS ANGRY WITH MY FATHER; I WAS ANGRY WITH THE WORLD; I WAS ANGRY WITH GOD. I KNOW NOW THAT I SHOULDN’T HAVE TAKEN IT OUT ON GOD, BUT I DIDN’T KNOW ANY BETTER. I KNOW BETTER NOW.

I WAITED A FEW MOMENTS AND I SAID TO HIM “GOD HAS NEVER STOPPED LOVING YOU. REMEMBER THAT HE KNOWS YOU BETTER THAN YOU KNOW YOURSELF. HE KNOWS THAT YOU LOVE HIM.”  THIS MAN MADE THE MOST WONDERFUL HUMBLE CONFESSION. I GAVE HIM ABSOLUTION, I ANOINTED HIM WITH THE SACRAMENT OF THE SICK AND I GAVE HIM HOLY COMMUNION.  HE DIED SHORTLY AFTER.

IT WAS MIDNIGHT. ON MY WAY HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL I THOUGHT OF THE GOOD THIEF ON THE CROSS. HE MIGHT HAVE HAD THE SAME EXPERIENCE WITH HIS FATHER. FOR WHATEVER REASON, HE GAVE UP ON GOD. BUT WHEN HE HEARD THE WORDS OF JESUS: FATHER FORGIVE THEM, HE TOOK THOSE WORDS PERSONALLY. HE KNEW THAT HE WAS INCLUDED IN THE LOVE OF JESUS THAT CAME POURING OUT FROM THE CROSS. AT THAT MOMENT HE WAS READY FOR CONVERSION.

FOR CENTURIES, BILLIONS OF PEOPLE HAVE LISTENED TO THE READING OF THE PASSION ON PALM SUNDAY AND GOOD FRIDAY. WE WILL NEVER KNOW HOW MANY SOULS HAVE BEEN BROUGHT TO THEIR KNEES IN REPENTANCE AT THE SIGHT OF GOD IN HUMAN FLESH WHO TOOK UPON HIMSELF THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD.

THE HOPE THAT CHRISTIANITY GIVES TO THE WORLD IS THE FACT THAT A LOSER CAN BECOME A WINNER IN THE END. UNFORTUNATELY IT IS POSSIBLE ALSO FOR A WINNER TO BECOME A LOSER.

TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE LOSERS PORTRAYED IN THE GOSPELS. SOME OF THEM WERE PHYSICALLY CLOSE TO JESUS AND YET THEY NEVER REALLY GOT TO KNOW JESUS CHRIST AS HE REALLY IS. THIS IS THE TRAGEDY OF THEIR LIVES.

WE ARE SHOCKED AT THE BETRAYAL OF JUDAS. HE WAS A FRIEND OF JESUS. HE WAS A DISCIPLE OF JESUS. WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM? WHY DID HE BETRAY HIS MASTER? HE IS THE ONLY PERSON IN THE BIBLE THAT JESUS CALLS FRIEND. HE HAD SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO REPENT. HE COULD HAVE GONE TO CONFESSION TO JESUS THE SAVIOR. ISN’T IT SAD THAT JUDAS COULD HAVE ASKED JESUS FOR FORGIVENESS?  INSTEAD, HE WENT OUT AND HUNG HIMSELF.

HEROD THE PUPPET KING WAS LIVING IN PUBLIC ADULTERY. HE WAS A MURDERER, A LIAR AND A THEIF. HE WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR MONEY, POSITION AND POWER. HE BETRAYED HIS CONSCIENCE. HE REFUSED REPENTANCE AT THE INVITATION OF JOHN THE BAPTIST WHOM HE BEHEADED. PRINCIPLE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS MEANT NOTHING TO HIM. HE SOLD HIS SOUL. FOR WHAT? FOR POWER? FOR POPULARITY? FOR MONEY? FOR PLEASURE? EVENTUALLY GOD CAUGHT UP WITH HIM. HE DIED OF A TERRIBLE DISEASE.

PILATE THE ROMAN POLITICIAN TRIED TO HOLD ON TO POWER. HE WANTED TO BE POPULAR WITH THE PEOPLE AND WITH THE ROMAN EMPEROR. HE REMINDS US OF SOME ELECTED OFFICIALS IN OUR DAY WHO MAKE A MOCKERY OF TRUTH. THEY HOLD ONE MORAL POSITION TODAY AND ANOTHER DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED POSITION TOMORROW. THEIR DECISIONS ARE NOT BASED ON REASON AND TRUTH BUT RATHER ON FEELING, AMBITION AND POLITICAL CORRECTNESS.

PILATE REMINDS US OF THOSE POLITICIANS WHO GO AGAINST THEIR CONSCIENCE ON CRUCIAL MORAL ISSUES AND SELL THEIR SOULS TO THE DEVIL. THEY ARE EVENTUALLY ABANDONED BY THE VERY PEOPLE THEY SOUGHT TO PLEASE. LIKE SO MANY OF THEM PILATE DIED AN UNHAPPY, LONELY AND BROKEN MAN WHO FAILED IN ALL OF HIS POLITICAL AMBITIONS.

ANNAS AND CAIPHAS WERE HIGH PRIESTS OF THE JEWISH RELIGION. THESE MEN WERE ENTRUSTED WITH THE SACRED THINGS OF GOD AND RELIGION. PEOPLE EXPECTED MORE OF THEM. IN THE ZEAL OF THEIR YOUTH, THEY COULDN’T WAIT FOR THE MESSIAH TO COME. NOW IN THE BLINDNESS AND GREED OF THEIR OLD AGE THEY LOST THEIR FAITH AND BETRAYED THEIR SACRED TRUST. THEY PLOTTED TO KILL THE MESSIAH BECAUSE HE THREATENED THEIR WAY OF LIFE.

SADLY THESE LEADERS REMIND US OF SOME OF OUR PRESENT DAY LEADERS WHO COVER UP FRAUD, BRIBERY, AND IMMORALITY OF EVERY KIND TO AVOID SCANDAL, ONLY TO HAVE SCANDAL ERUPT IN A MORE HARMFUL WAY. WE ARE ASHAMED OF THE ELECTED AND APPOINTED LEADERS OF CHURCH AND STATE WHO FAIL TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE UNDER THEIR CARE.

HOW ABOUT THE SPECTATORS—THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO JUST WATCHED WHAT WAS GOING ON AND DID NOTHING ABOUT IT? WE ARE REMINDED OF THE PEOPLE WHO SEE OVER 4000 BABIES KILLED EVERY DAY BY ABORTION AND LOOK THE OTHER WAY. THEY CHOOSE TO BE SELECTIVE ABOUT WHAT EVIL THEY ARE WILLING TO TOLERATE.

HOW EASILY WE CAN IDENTIFY WITH THE COWARDLY CONDUCT OF SPECTATORS. OUR SIN IS NOT THAT WE DO BAD THINGS, BUT THAT WE DO NOTHING TO MAKE SOCIETY BETTER.

LIKE THE SPECTATORS AT THE PASSION, WE DABBLE IN RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE ONCE A WEEK. WE PAY LIP SERVICE TO JESUS AND HIS CHURCH. WE SAY: I’M A GOOD CATHOLIC, BUT WE DO NOT LIFT OUR VOICES TO DEFEND THE POSITION OF THE CHURCH ON THE IMPORTANT MORAL ISSUES THAT THREATEN OUR FREEDOM AND THE SALVATION OF OUR SOULS.

WE COMMIT SACRILEGE AFTER SACRILEGE BY RECEIVING COMMUNION IN MORTAL SIN WHILE THE SACRAMENT OF CONFESSION IS AVAILABLE TO US PRACTICALLY EVERY DAY.

LIKE THE SPECTATORS AT THE PASSION, HOW SHALLOW WE CAN BE IN OUR APPROACH TO OUR CATHOLIC FAITH. WE ACCEPT THE TEACHING WE AGREE WITH. WE REJECT THE TEACHING THAT REQUIRES SACRIFICE. WE ARE AFRAID OF BEING REJECTED BECAUSE OF OUR BELIEFS. WE ARE MORE CONCERNED WITH BEING POLITICALLY CORRECT THAN LIVING A MORAL LIFE.

FORTUNATELY LOSERS WERE NOT THE ONLY ONES WHO SHOWED UP AT THE PASSION. THERE WERE SOME SHINING EXAMPLES OF WINNERS AS WELL.

PETER AND THE DISCIPLES LOOKED LIKE LOSERS AT FIRST. BUT THEY GRASPED THE OPPORTUNITY FOR A SECOND CHANCE. THEY REPENTED, CONFESSED THEIR SINS AND SUFFERED MARTYRDOM FOR THE SAKE OF JESUS AND HIS CHURCH.

WHAT ABOUT JOHN, MARY AND THE OTHER WOMEN WHO REMAINED LOYAL AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS? THE WORLD LEARNED FROM THEM WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FAITHFUL. WE RECOGNIZE THOSE AMONG US WHO ARE FAITHFUL.

WE HONOR JOSEPH OF ARIMITHEA, WHO GAVE HIS TOMB FOR JESUS’ BURIAL HAS WON A PLACE IN HISTORY FOR HIS COURAGE, COMPASSION AND THOUGHTFULNESS. WE HONOR VERONICA WHO WAS REWARDED BY JESUS FOR HER FAITH AND GENTLE CARE. SIMON OF CYRENE EARNED A PLACE IN THE FIFTH STATION OF THE CROSS FOR HIS AID TO JESUS IN CARRYING THE CROSS. DISMIS THE GOOD THIEF LITERALLY STOLE HEAVEN. HE WENT TO CONFESSION TO JESUS WHILE HE STILL HAD SOME TIME LEFT. THEY ALL ENDED UP WINNERS.

THE SOLDIER WHO WAS STANDING BY THE CROSS SAW EVERYTHING. HE KNEW THAT THE REAL HERO IN THIS DRAMA WAS JESUS OUR SAVIOR. IN CONTRAST TO THE OTHER CHARACTERS, THE CENTURIAN SAW JESUS STANDING THERE SILENT, DIGNIFIED, STRONG, COURAGEOUS, GENTLE, AND FORGIVING. “TRULY”, HE SAID, “THIS WAS THE SON OF GOD”.

THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST GIVES US A PERSPECTIVE ON GOOD AND EVIL WHEN I LOOK AT THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JESUS I SEE MY SIN AND MY WEAKNESS MORE CLEARLY.

IN HIS INNOCENCE, I SEE MY IMPURITY. IN HIS STRENGTH, I RECOGNIZE MY WEAKNESS. IN HIS COURAGE BEFORE PILATE, I SEE MY COWARDICE BEFORE THE WORLD. IN HIS CALM RESOLUTE DEMEANOR BEFORE HEROD I SEE MY ANXIETY, FEAR AND DOUBT. IN HIS HUMILITY BEFORE THE HIGH PRIEST, I RECOGNIZE MY PRIDE IN REFUSING TO OPEN MY SOUL IN THE SACRAMENT OF CONFESSION.

EACH TIME I READ THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST, I CAN’T HELP BUT THINK ABOUT THE UNBELIEVER WHO CAME TO HIS KNEES DURING HOLY WEEK. HE WAS ASKED HOW AN ATHEIST FINALLY CAME TO BELIEVE. HE SAID I CAN’T STOP THINKING OF THAT FIGURE HANGING ON A CROSS ON A HILL OUTSIDE OF JERUSALEM. THE VISION OF IT HAUNTS ME. I CAN’T GET HIM OUT OF MY MIND. HE IS THE MOST PRECIOUS, THE MOST INNOCENT, THE MOST JUST, THE MOST COMPASSIONATE, THE MOST FORGIVING MAN WHO EVER LIVED. AND WE KILLED HIM IN COLD BLOOD. GOD PUT HIM IN OUR HANDS AND WE DIDN’T TREAT HIM VERY WELL.