Palm Sunday Homily
It might seem strange that we listen to the long Passion Gospel on Palm Sunday. After all, we hear John’s version on Good Friday and at this stage in Holy Week we haven’t yet got to the events of Christ’s Passion. Quite the opposite: Jesus enters Jerusalem, riding into the city like a King, with the crowds waving palms of victory and shouting ‘Hosanna’.
The long Gospel sets the scene, giving a resume before we live out the mysteries of Holy Week day by day. Of course, this year it’s rather different. For many of you, the children are already at home and there is no real sense of an Easter Holiday; indeed, many of us have had to ditch our plans. None of you will be able to physically enter the church building for the most important services of our year. And the ceremonies that are taking place will, because of circumstances, be simpler: so, today no great procession of palms (which is one of my liturgical highlights of the year!), no washing of feet on Thursday, no veneration of the cross or Walk of Witness on Friday, no Easter fire or baptisms on Saturday night.
Rather uniquely - and this is important to stress - the bishops have removed what is known as the Easter Duty this year - in other words, since it is not possible for us to do so, there is no requirement for us to receive Communion or go to confession. We should not be worried that we are staying at home, sad though this is - in fact, we should make a spiritual communion (which we do at the end of this Mass) and a good act of contrition at this time, and resolve, of course, to receive Communion and go to confession when we return to normality.
But Holy Week is not cancelled this year. We still live these days, almost in real time, with the Lord. We should read the Passion Gospels slowly, especially following the Mass readings each day. We should find space for prayer and reflection. We should show charity to others, even if it is only virtually or through the phone. We can live the character of each of these days.
As a sign of our intention to do this, I invite you to put a palm in your house. I will be putting a basket of blessed palms outside the front door - feel free to take one if you are passing the house (in a legitimate way, of course - this does not count as essential travel!). Alternatively, why not take an appropriate branch from the garden or a park? Put it in your house. Why? Because it links you to what we’ll be doing in the church this week and it is a sign of victory - our victory, Christ’s victory. Because despite the darkness of these times, the light will always triumph.
Fr Nicholas, 5th April 2020