Palm Sunday – International Teams Mass celebrated by Father Ricardo Londoo, Spiritual Advisor to the International Leading Team
Fr Ricardo Londoo’s Homily
We have heard the Word of God that invites us to reflect, to meditate, and to search for meaning.
In the second part of Isaiah, the so-called “Book of Consolation,” a character called “Yahwéh’s servant” appears. He is a disciple whose “ear has been opened” by God to instruct and teach others. His mission will be neither spectacular nor successful. He will be persecuted, defiled, despised, and led to death. He gives himself up for sinners and bears the sins of all. He becomes a source of salvation.
The Christian community has seen in this character a prophetic anticipation of the figure of Jesus. He is depicted as a messianic figure, who was the opposite of Israel’s expectation of someone more triumphant and in the style of David.
The text of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, a hymn that he includes in his writings, leads us to contemplate the meaning of the Cross through the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus, the Christ, fully man who dies and is exalted by God through the Resurrection. It shows us the human condition of Jesus and the meaning of his Passion: persecuted and led to death; delivered as a criminal and condemned; but filled with the Spirit that leads him to the fullness of life in glory.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is not a fleeting triumph of Jesus being recognized as Messiah-King of Israel. No. The event was neither spectacular nor massive. A small number of Galileans, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover, come and hail Jesus as Messiah. There is some surprise and the people of the city wonder who it is. They are told he is the prophet from Nazareth. Everything is simple: a little donkey, some screaming children, some branches of trees.
Jesus does not enter as a mighty king, but rather as the Servant described by Isaiah. And it will be on Good Friday, when all this is fulfilled, when the priests and the authorities lead him to his death. Signs of a Messiah, but not with the expected greatness. Jesus’ triumph will be the Cross. He succeeds, offering and giving his life. And it will be the faith of his disciples, who will recognize him as Lord and God by his resurrection. It is the triumph of the seed that dies to bear abundant fruit. It’s the fruitfulness of the gift.
We would like, perhaps, a triumph that is more spectacular, miraculous, pompous. There are still, among us, nostalgic remnants of the greatness, the pretentiousness and magnificence of all that is monarchical. There is still temptation, in the Church, for power and human glory. But the Lord wants to show us another face.
And, in a special way this year, we must bow our heads and immerse ourselves in contemplation of what we are living, united with the Passion of Jesus. The pandemic, with its corresponding quarantines and lockdowns, leads us to consider the meaning of the weakness and fragility, vulnerability and humility, that characterises us today.
In the text of the letter to the Philippians, before writing the hymn we heard, Paul invites us to “have the same feelings as Jesus Christ.” Let us ask ourselves calmly, but deeply: What would be the feelings of Jesus today? In the situation in which we find ourselves, with so much pain and tears, with so much suffering and death, with so much injustice and inequality: What feelings of the Lord Jesus accompany me?
We have seen very strong and moving scenes; the media bombards us day and night with photographs, videos, writings, testimonies… Nobody is unaware of what is going on. What should my feelings be?
This Palm Sunday has taken us somewhere else. This Holy Week questions us more than ever. It is no longer about celebrating the past but about living a distressing and painful present. It is not about staying closed in on ourselves but asking ourselves what we are invited to do today. As we come to the end of Lent, is our conversion truly the one the Lord wants and expects?
This week we will be in our homes in the manner of the first communities of believers who closed the doors for fear of the Jews and thus, locked up, celebrated their faith and pledged to love like Jesus. Today, we are called to relive a profound experience of faith, trust, hope and love. Once again, it is the small domestic churches, the homes, which are invited to revive the faith. It is no longer the presence of the priest at the head of the community, it is the family experience that makes being a missionary disciple of Jesus alive and effective.
Therefore, as we celebrate this Mass at the beginning of Holy Week, let us live this significant moment in our homes. At the time of communion, let us share the family food as a symbol of the presence of the Lord among us who gathers us, speaks to us, encourages us and invites us to truly become children of God and members of the ecclesial community.