In this brief homily, I talk about the lessons learned from St. John's account of the Passion of Jesus, as well as from the 1st reading, from the Prophet Isaiah. Again, this is more than just "looking back" at what happened to someone 2000 years ago; the Passion and death of Jesus Christ is our salvation from sin and death. As we honor and remember the events which led to Jesus' death on the cross, may we also do what he did -- serve our brothers and sisters in this world, even to the point of laying down our lives for others.
Today we commemorate three things: The institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and the commandment to serve one another. This beautiful liturgy is the beginning of the great Paschal Triduum.
Even though we are considering events that occurred thousands of years ago (the Passover and the Last Supper), we believe that even now -- through the sacred liturgy -- God is liberating us from sin, feeding us with the Body and Blood of His Son, and renewing the promise of eternal life for us. This is the power of the Eucharist: as we commemorate that which God gave us so long ago, we make it present in every age as we heed Christ's commandment: "Do this in memory of me."
In this great celebration of the Eucharist today, we ask God to bless and consecrate the holy oils that are used in our diocese throughout the year. As well we honor and pray for our priests, who will renew their priestly promises. More than anything, we recall that we like Christ are 'anointed' by God to proclaim the Good News. "Christ" means "anointed", and as Christians we follow the anointed one and do what he did. The name for this Mass (Chrism) comes from the word "Christ". May God bless the oil that we will use, and the people who use them and are anointed with them. All of us: bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and laypeople are anointed to be like Christ in the world today.
(This homily is a shorter one than normal, because of the reading of the Passion that preceded it.)
Palm Sunday is our entrance into Holy Week, and as such the readings, prayers, and songs serve as a "prelude" or a summary to what we will celebrate in detail this week. As we celebrate the Institution of the Eucharist, the passion and death of Jesus, and the Resurrection, we do so not as spectators or historians; we are faithful followers of Jesus Christ. As we read in the 2nd Letter to Timothy, "If we die with him, we will live with him" (2 Tim 2:11).
Five words to carry us through Holy Week -- and the rest of our lives: We know how this ends.
(Three young women received the Sacrament of Confirmation at this Mass.)
The words of God through His prophet Jeremiah are striking: "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord...". God has promised a new covenant with His people; one that is eternal and will be for all people of all time. Jesus made this covenant with us in his blood, shed on the cross for our salvation. We remember this covenant at every celebration of the Eucharist, and thus God renews that covenant with us constantly. At this point in Lent we can also say, "Behold, the days are coming..." as we prepare to celebrate our holiest days.
(I think I have the audio figured out now, so this sounds much better!)
This homily was given right before celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation for several folks at St. Thomas More Parish (Pensacola). Thus, I was speaking in a more colloquial way as I wanted to reach the young people directly. The Holy Spirit is God's gift to the Church, and it gives us the means and the ability to preach the Good News just as the Apostles did after Pentecost. What is the Good News? We find it in today's Gospel, especially John 3:16. "God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life."