Homily 259 – Palm Sunday
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
April 9, 2017
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
Palm Sunday, the Sunday called “The Triumphal Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem” can be baffling without a bit of context.
The triumphal entry – the waving of palms, the shouting of “Hosannah” – all the elements, results from what happened yesterday. Lazarus Saturday.
On that day, we commemorate Lazarus being raised from the dead, called out of the tomb, by Christ.
In the troparion, we sing:
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your Passion,
You confirmed the universal resurrection, O Christ God.
Lazarus emerging from the tomb sets the scene. Christ enters into Jerusalem triumphant.
We can imagine what the people of Jerusalem thought – what the Disciples and Apostles thought – here was a great prophet, who has power even over life and death.
We are redeemed! We are liberated!
Perhaps we are reminded of the liberators of World War II entering the towns of France, of Belgium, of Holland.
But the view of liberation the people of Ancient Judea had was not exactly true.
They were being liberated alright. No doubt – liberation was the order of the day.
But not from the Romans.
The focus of the people of Israel, the people of Jerusalem, and perhaps even the Disciples and Apostles, was on their immediate, earthly, domination by the Romans.
Their hope was for political independence.
And when that independence didn’t come, that was the charge laid against Christ.
Our Lord was not about a short-term independence. Our Lord’s mission was for eternal restoration. Eternal freedom.
Like the people of Israel in the time of Christ, our view is also very, very short-sighted.
Our prayers betray us – Lord, I really need this job. Lord, please protect us from this storm. Lord, heal my child.
Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
Short-sighted. Because what our Lord has in mind is not raising from the dead to die again, as Lazarus died a second time.
What our Lord has in mind, his sole purpose and intent, is to save us for all eternity. Everlasting life, never to die again.
Our short-sightedness hinders us. This world is not our home. This kingdom is not our Kingdom.
Our Kingdom is with Christ.
That isn’t to say that our life here is somehow insignificant or irrelevant.
Far from it – this life is important, specifically because God created this, and this is good.
It is fallen – but it is good.
And it has a purpose. It is for us to develop the skills so essential to true life. Skills like loving one another. Caring for one another. Seeing the image of God in everyone.
Everything in this life – be it our response to pleasurable things or to unpleasant things – everything prepares us for the life that is to come.
And thus, everything becomes good.
We can look at every situation, every relationship, every event – and find meaning, because it is shaping us for the Kingdom which is to come. Preparing us, giving us that wedding garment for our marriage to our Eternal Bridegroom, who is Christ the Lord.
And thus, when we encounter anything in this life, we can say, confidently and truthfully, blessed be the Name of the Lord. Hosannah in the highest!
Over the next week, the cries of “Hosannah” will change to “Crucify Him!” The people and rulers of Israel who were to have no other God before them will claim Caesar as their ruler, rejecting God outright.
And we look at these events and say “bad.” These are difficult, evil, bad events.
But they are for our salvation. They prepare for the ultimate good – they begin the process of resurrection.
In order to be raised – Lazarus has to first die.
That is the blessing, the meaning, of this week of our Lord’s passion. It begins the process of the conquering of Death – the restoration of humanity.
Resurrection. Restoration. Reconciliation.
Whatever word is used – it is good. It is good.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!