Palm Sunday – The Homily
Sometimes in life, as we are proceeding with our life, the Lord taps us on the shoulders and asks us to head in a different direction. This could be a call to a vocation that is out of the norm (priesthood, deaconate, religious or consecrated life). The Scriptures are replete with stories of men and woman who received a new and different call from the Lord and were asked to move in a totally new direction. At this point we have a decision to make. Once we decide to move in this new and different direction, there will come resistance from three directions. What are these three temptations? How do we deal with them? Consider the Parable of the Sower in Matthew’s Gospel. Where has the seed fallen? What kind of soil are we presenting to the sower?
The three temptations are the three classics: “The World, the Flesh and The Devil.”
The first temptation is the “Safety of the Status Quo” and deals with the World.
Resistance often comes from people who had grown accustomed to our style and our original pathway. They find your decision strange and they themselves have trouble re-adjusting to your change in direction. Or they are afraid that the Lord might ask them to change directions as well. Unable or unwilling to do that, they attack your decision instead.
The religious leaders demonstrate this in the gospel passage as Jesus enters into Jerusalem. A poet writes, “Everyone proclaimed your mighty deeds! “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” … but Pharisees wanted quiet.
Will we be the seed on the hard and rocky ground that takes no roots and therefore no strength – no courage?
The second temptation deals with The Flesh and is the temptation of Seductive Substitution.
We don’t want to be seen as weird or as a “religious fanatic.” Our reputation is “comfortable” and we wish to keep wearing it like a warm blanket. Will the seed be choked by our own comfort and unwillingness to courageously enter into the discomfort of battle?
The third temptation deals with The Devil and is the temptation of dealing with the Sword of Satan. He will say that you are unworthy of this call. If you don’t believe that, he will say that you won’t be able to handle it or that it will hurt or that you won’t be happy. Will we be the seed that is stolen away by the devil because of fear?
On reflecting on St. Joseph, St. Bernadine of Siena compares the situation facing St. Joseph with the situation facing Christ and outlines four ways to overcome the 3 temptations.
First is to realize that God gives “Select Assignments” to everyone. Sometimes they are large and significant; sometimes they seem small and quiet. They also come at any age as well. As one pastor once said, “If you ain’t dead, you ain’t done.” So don’t be surprised if a new and different “call” comes to you.
Second, no Select Assignment comes without a Special Grace. Whenever divine grace selects someone to receive a particular grace, or some especially favored position, all the gifts for that state and assignment are given WAY ahead of time to enrich that person abundantly. Joseph was the specially chosen man through whom and under whom Christ entered the world fittingly and in an appropriate way. No way he was given that assignment without the grace being imparted to him ahead of time.
When a new call arrives, often we’re moving in one direction oriented towards a particular horizon or goal when the Lord wishes us to go in an entirely different direction. In order for us to stop and reconsider where we are going and what we are doing and to get us going in the new direction, the Lord allows a type of darkness or Significant Disorientation to occur. At this time we might ourselves be disoriented as we struggle and wrestle with the Lord, trying to continue in a direction that is leading us away from his intended path. This is not to punish us but to pull us up short, so that we turn to the Lord and begin to listen to Him speaking to us with new directions.
Examine the life of Joseph in the Gospel of Matthew when, after receiving the news about Mary, his world was turned upside down and he was unsure about what to do next. He was certainly confused, angry, sad, not sure what to do next. But, at this juncture, the Lord often provides a Specific Sign. The Lord will send us some type of a message, commonly in the form of another person that calls us to stop and reconsider what is happening, our orientation and what to do next. We see this in the case is Joseph with the visit and message from the angel. We see the same thing with Jesus and the visit and message from the angel in the Garden of Gethsemane.
To assist us in the , the Lord also provides the gift of faith. Consider the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews 11:1-16. Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see. Because of faith, men and women of old were approved and supported by God.
Abel gave the best believing that God would replace and return it many-fold.
Noah was warned about things not yet seen, yet he revered God enough and built an ark that his household might be saved.
Abraham obeyed when he was called, and went forth, not knowing where he was going, to the place he was to receive as a heritage; in the promised land … whose designer and maker is God.
Sarah received power to conceive though she was past the age, for she thought that the One who had made the promise was worthy of trust.
Through faith we perceive that the worlds that we see were created by the Word of God, and that what is visible came into being through the invisible. Thus invisible Special Graces are already there and we can believe that the visible Specific Signs will be provided.
I close with a poem on this topic:
Oh God, when morning opens, open our ears so we may hear.
Open our eyes so that no clouds cover your light.
Open our minds so we may know your incarnate love you provide.
Open our hearts so we can learn to love as you do.