Sermon for Palm Sunday
The narrative of the Passion of Christ we have just listened to makes it possible for us to grasp the great drama of Humanity. It also gives a sense to life. In fact, the death of Christ is the most beautiful and powerful lesson of life. Beyond the atrocities of the Passion, beyond the betrayal, beyond the cowardice, beyond the hypocrisy and beyond the weakness, a strong message emerges from the floods of human baseness: there are still hope and love in this world. But let the world understand this message well! The foundations of hope and love must be found in the Cross of Jesus, not in the world. The world? Christ told us in yesterday’s gospel; It has already been judged! Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
What is this judgment? We know that at the end of time, there will be the last judgment, which will concede to each and every person his eternal reward or his eternal punishment according to his life. Saint Augustine calls it the judgment of condemnation. But now, what is the judgment Christ is talking about?
It is what Saint Augustine calls, a judgment of discernment. We hear about it very often, at least at every Mass we attend, but, perhaps, we do not take enough notice of it. It is the judgment mentioned in Psalm 42, from which the prayers at the foot of the altar are composed: Judica me Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo, et doloso erue me. - Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man.
Thus, this judgment of discernment is the release of the faithful of Christ from the yoke of Satan. From the first day of original sin, Satan reigned in the hearts of men. But now, Christ retakes his possessions. This reconquest is won on the Cross, where Jesus offers Himself in Sacrifice, and it is renewed at every Mass, which is the same and unique Sacrifice of Jesus. At the beginning of each Mass, we ask God to judge us and to distinguish our cause from the impious people. So, it is a judgment of Faith. By their Faith, founded on Jesus Christ and consummated by His Passion and His Resurrection, the believers are freed from the slavery of Satan and united to Christ from Whom they receive life. Faith is really our Victory as Saint John claims it.
And the prince of this world shall be cast out! Saint Augustine explains that Satan loses the souls he held captive until the Passion of Christ. After the death and the Resurrection, many people have renounced Satan and turned to God. The Prince of this world is cast out from the souls of the believers regenerated by the waters of Baptism.
Thus, the Cross of Jesus is truly the place where the verdict is rendered. Justification and liberation for some; condemnation for others. This is the Cross we worship in a special manner beginning on Passion Sunday, the beginning of the Liturgical time of the Passion. The Hymn of Vespers during this time is Vexilla Regis, composed in the 6th century. It shows how Christ the King recovers His Kingdom: Abroad the regal banners fly; now shines the Cross's mystery: upon it Life did death endure, and yet by death did life procure. O Crux, spes unica - Hail Cross, of hopes the most sublime!
The Cross, dear brethren, is the throne from which Christ rules the world even though the world doesn’t recognize it. The Carthusian order’s motto proclaims the timelessness of the Cross: Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis – The Cross stands while the world is changing! It shows the permanence of the Faith and the fidelity of God who cannot change. Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever as Saint Paul exclaims. Assuredly, the Word of God came into the world at a precise time in a precise place. It is also true that His sacrifice was made at one particular place in the world and on one particular day in the History of Humanity. But the sacrifice of the Cross transcends Time and Space. Remember that any Mass celebrated anywhere and at anytime is the very same Sacrifice. The teaching of Jesus cannot be limited, constrained, or relegated to any one particular set of thoughts and precepts that someone may hold in any given society with its own particular rules, customs and traditions.
For example, it is not rare to hear some feminists say that Jesus was dependant on the social rules of His time. This very brilliant assertion is supposed to explain why Jesus didn’t choose any women to be Apostles. Jesus was dependant on the social rules of his time! I guess our feminists didn’t read the gospel. He who publicly called the Scribes and the Pharisees generation of vipers and condemned their hypocrisy in very strong language, He who used to eat and speak with notorious sinners, He who stood face to face with the Priests and stated plainly that He is the Son of God would have been dependant on the social rules of his time? Well, that’s really a good joke!
This example indeed shows that we have to accept the message of Jesus just as it is and not try to adapt it to our own ideas. It is really amazing, and often funny, to read the so called explanations of the miracles of Jesus by the rationalists of the XIX century. The theories of a century swing back and forth. They are like our ideas, our resolutions, our projects and our feelings: very often progressive and evanescent and rarely stable. They are the works of the world.
Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis! The Cross is now permanent. It is the rock upon which we can confidently set the foundations of a stable life. It is a hard way. We have to renounce many things, and first ourselves, our ideas and theories, our intelligence and our will. This a sacrifice, but a useful sacrifice. Then the prince of this world will be cast out of our soul, and Jesus Christ our King can take possession of us. He has already done this the day of our Baptism. But that was just the first fruits. Now we have to live in the Spirit and offer ourselves to God each and every single day of our lives. Jesus has prepared the way for us. He is still showing us this way.
May Our Lady help us to leave this chaotic world of constant flux so that we may definitively find the stable and peaceful Kingdom of Her Son, which is a Kingdom established by the Cross.
O crux Ave, spes unica. There is still hope, because the Cross is still there.