Homily for Palm Sunday 2020

In what seems little more than the blink of an eye, so much has changed. Reflecting that change, new phrases and words come into our way of speaking: expressions which declare the unprecedented nature of what our world has encountered through the presence of this terrible coronavirus, covid -19.

One of the many ways in which the media presents this change is simply in bringing before us the different settings of the people brought before us on our televisions. From the normal studio environment, we are now often invited into the sitting rooms, the bedrooms and even the lofts of those brought before us as presenters, interviewers and interviewees.  We have even taken to the living rooms of royalty and the self isolation quarters of our prime minister.

 While we listen to what they have to say to us, our natural inquisitive natures mean that our eyes travel quickly also to the background, to the backdrop to the scene.  

There are many books on the shelves – sometimes neat and tidy, sometimes not; sometimes there are even unseasonal Christmas decorations!

But what is most significant of all, surely, are the photographs –  Images of family, of loved ones, of people who are unique and precious to the people speaking to us.

They are not intended to be the story that is being told, but in a very real sense, they indeed are the story. They represent the story of people’s lives, the ones who make life worth living. They are those who love and are loved in return.

There truly is indeed something called society, says our prime minister.  There truly is something so precious called family and friendship.

St. John of the Cross brought before us the idea of the via negativa – the God who is revealed to us in the darkness, in absence.
The jewel that is family and the precious gem that is true friendship is surely revealed to us just now through something akin to that via negativa, to the light that shines in the darkness!
It is seen through the very fact that we cannot gather together just now. It speaks to us that we are prevented from doing so much of what we have always just taken for granted We can’t visit grandparents nor can we  play with our grandchildren. We can’t enjoy the company of close friends or just play with or hang out with our pals.  
It is so painfully experienced above all, is it not, in the depths of anguish of those who cannot be present at the bedside of the dying or attend the funeral of a loved one ?
And through the “not being able to”, we realise still more how much we
love and treasure one another.

Let us move now, not back to the TV screens, but back to Jerusalem and to that entry into the Holy City and ultimately to the  coming days Passion.
And there we meet the suffering Christ who comes past us, heading to the hill of Calvary.
Jesus has taken so long to bring this family of his disciples together To form them, to teach them, to reassure and encourage them and to raise them up when they have fallen. This time of formation and bringing together has indeed been a long one.
Who is my mother and my brother and my sister? – Those who do the will of my Father, they are my brother and sister and mother.  
Now, though, it seems the relationship is beginning to disintegrate. For the family of his closest disciples, fear has begun to take over, trust evaporates and eventually Jesus will be left alone.  

And yet it is in carrying that experience of loss and loneliness that Jesus goes to the cross. Even as he endures this disintegration of relationship, he is able bring together the scattered and frightened children of God in a new and unbreakable bond. Through his death, he brings the world to life in him. Through his death, life will ultimately triumph; the power of death and sin will be overcome for ever.

So today, even as we see the disappearance, albeit temporary, of many of the normal signs and expressions of family life, as we practise social, or more accurately, physical distancing. Today, as we experience a type of liturgical disintegration in not being able to gather and walk together in procession to enter into Holy Week, to celebrate together the ultimate paradox of death and resurrection in Eucharist, even now we are still touched by the presence and the power of the one who brings life through death.

In these days, we hear people comment, again and again, that we appreciate now so much more the things and the people who really matter. In these days, we continue to be held together by the touch and embrace of the God who is totally one with us in our suffering.
The one who by His Holy Cross has redeemed the world and all its tragedies.
That is what we recall and make present in these days.
Even if we are unable to come physically together to do what the Church has done every year, the death of our savour is the process not of disintegration, but of our being born to eternal life in him.  

May the Lord continue to bless you
and keep you family and your friends safe
during this Holy Week and always.

Have mercy, Lord, on your Church,
As she brings you her supplications,
And be attentive to those who incline their hearts before you:
Do not allow, we pray, those you have redeemed
By the death of your only begotten Son,
To be harmed by their sins or weighed down by their trials.
Through Christ Our Lord.

Prayer over the People
                   Mass for 5th Saturday of Lent

Father Peter
Palm Sunday 2020