Archive for April, 2003

Homily — Palm Sunday 2003

Sunday, April 13th, 2003

Homily — Palm Sunday April 13, 2003

Christ's Entry into Jerusalem Artist UnknownOver the past few weeks we have experienced for better or for worse what is called real time war reporting.

We turn on the radio or television and we are transported to the other side of the world, where at that very moment history is being made.

Because of modern technology, what are called embedded reporters are bringing us the powerful images and sounds of what is really happening hour after hour in and around Iraq.

Starting today, while none of the cable news networks will be running it, all this week, every Roman Catholic Church throughout the world will be giving a similar real time reporting of another, greater war: the war between the King of Kings and the Prince of Darkness.

This week the Church celebrates Holy Week. And every day this week, the Liturgy transports us to the other side of the world: to Jerusalem, where Our Lord Jesus is living His final days on earth before His passion. Each day the readings at Mass bring us one day closer to Good Friday. And throughout the week, we are invited to become embedded with Our Lord and His Twelve Apostles as that day of fierce battle draws near.

Wednesday evening when you look up in the sky you will notice that there’s a full moon. It is the first full moon of the spring season.

While most armies wait for their to be no moon before they attack their enemy, Jesus advances against Satan’s kingdom under the full moon of the Jewish Passover. This Thursday, Holy Thursday, Christ and His twelve apostles will gather in the upper room.

This Thursday evening at 7 p.m. we will gather under that same giant moon, here at St. Mark Church, to solemnly commemorate that Last Supper. And just as embedded reporters bring downtown Baghdad into your living room, the Sacred Liturgy will bring the upper room to Garden City.

Fr. Donnelly will rise from his seat and wash the feet of twelve men in the parish. And after Holy Communion, we will solemnly carry the Blessed Sacrament around the Church and place it in a special side tabernacle beautifully set up just for that night. And then the priests and altar servers leave in silence.

The formal service is ended for the night, but the real time coverage continues. For our Church and all other Catholic Churches remain open until 11 p.m. Holy Thursday Night for silent prayer and adoration.

We are encouraged to spend that time in Church reflecting on the Gospel of John, Chapters 14 — 17, Jesus’ farewell speech given at the Last Supper, and on Jesus’ hour of prayer and temptation in the Garden of Gethsemene.

But then at 11 p.m. Holy Thursday, everyone needs to leave and we close up the Church. The Last Supper has ended, and our Lord’s one hour of agony in the Garden of Gethsemene has passed. Judas enters the Garden, Jesus is arrested, and the apostles abandon their Commander in Chief.
On Good Friday when you come to Church during the day, the Holy Water will be gone, the bells will not ring — a wooden clacker will take their place — the altar will be stripped bare, candles will be extinguished, and the crosses will all be covered over.

Worst of all, the Tabernacle Lamp will be gone, the door to the Tabernacle will be wide open, and the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist will not be found in the Church.

It will appear on that day that the forces of evil have gained the high ground.

Between Noon and 3 p.m. on Good Friday, it would be good to teach your children to speak only in whispered voices and better yet to join you in quiet prayer or reading as Jesus suffers those last three hours of His life nailed to the Cross.

At 3 p.m., Good Friday, we clergy will process silently from the back of the Church to the stripped altar. When we arrive at the altar we will all lie face down on the floor while everyone in the congregation kneels. Then follows the solemn chanting of the passion by three members of the choir, the veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion.

Holy Saturday Morning at 9 a.m. we will gather in the stark, empty Church to pray the psalms and to mourn our Dead Lord and God, Jesus Christ, now buried in the cold dark tomb.

But then as soon as the sun goes down, and darkness covers the sky, we will gather Holy Saturday Night at 8 p.m. here at the Church. If you get here at ten of 8 and wonder why no lights are on in or around the Church, that’s because it’s part of the Liturgy. The ushers will have flashlights to help seat you.

But at about 8 p.m. we will light a fire in a small fireplace set up in the Courtyard. And from that fire we will light the Easter Candle, which will be brought into the pitch dark Church to begin the Easter Vigil.

And then the lights, the candles, the Church bells, the Holy Water, the flowers, the joyful songs, and the Lord Himself will all be given back to us on that Holiest of Nights.

We hope you can join us for real time coverage of Holy Week at St. Mark Church. For unlike other real time coverage, we not only see and hear the sights and sounds of what is now happening, in these Holy Liturgies we become part of the battle, part of the action. And in the battle of good and evil, there are no civilians, only soldiers in this war for human souls.

If we wish to advance our rank in Christ’s army, we would do well to follow Him each day this week to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room, to the Cross and to the Tomb.

Then and only then will this Palm of Victory be of any value to us.