The real world.

Homily 592 – Palm Sunday
Holy Transfiguration, Ames, Iowa
April 28, 2024
Epistle:  (247) – Philippians 4:4-9
Gospel:  (41) – John 12:1-18

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

It’s pretty easy to do what St. Paul says this morning.  Rejoice!  Palm Sunday always has that sense of joy about it.  A celebration – the people welcoming their Conquering King with the cry of “Hosanna!”

Remember that the crowds that shout “Hosanna!” today are the same crowds that shout “Crucify Him!” a few days from now.  The ones who hail Jesus as their King will declare, “We have no King but Ceasar!”

We humans are a fickle bunch.  We change our minds constantly, depending on our mood, our situation, our audience, etc.  We let our feelings rule us.  That rarely leads us to good places.

St. Paul tells the Philippians that we should be grounded in facts, not feelings.  He said, “Do not be anxious about anything.”  He said for us to think always about truth, honorable things, just things, pure things, lovely things, commendable things, virtuous things.

What are those things?

I want to detail a few.  First, that God loves us.  Not just loves us, loves us regardless of our hate, our disobedience, our cruelty, or anything else we can do.  Even our fickleness.  He loves us as the Optina Elders put it, more than we know how to love.  More than we are capable of experiencing love.

Second, as much as God loves you, He loves everyone else that much too.  Even the people we believe to be unworthy of God’s love.  People like Hitler.  Or Stalin.  Or their modern day counterparts.

He loves your exploitive boss, your scheming coworker.  He loves the Karen that berated you in the parking lot at Target.  He loves the player who hit the chance shot that sent your team home from the playoffs.

He even loves Judas, who betrayed Him, or Pontius Pilate, who sent Him to be crucified.  He loves all His children, all of His creation.

There are so many truths, so many things.  Perhaps the one we forget most is that this world, this creation, is transitory.  It is brief.  How long is 100 years against the backdrop of eternity?

This is the fact that we may not think enough about.  This is the fact that – because we don’t consider it – leads us to have misplaced priorities.

We prioritize and behave and act based on our perceptions of here and now, on what will make us feel good or comfortable, and not based on the fact that this life is to prepare us for the life which is to come – the Eternal One.

I think what St. Paul is telling us here is to always keep in mind our eternal life.  The Church Fathers and monastic elders to be constant in our remembrance of death, for the same reason – to remember our eternal life.

It’s interesting that by entering Jerusalem – the feast is called the Feast of the Triumphant Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem – so by entering, we are proclaiming the victory of Christ over death.

The people holding the palms and shouting Hosanna were probably thinking about Lazarus, in the grave four days.  That four days is important, too.  Being buried alive wasn’t common, but it happened.  But being dead four days?  That meant in the Jewish mind that the soul was already making the journey to God.

One of the most significant things we learn through Holy Week is that the Jews missed the Messiah because they believed the Messiah would deliver them from the Romans, and re-establish the autonomy of the Jewish state.

We continue to see this today, in the political leaders we have that are trying to manipulate the events in the Eastern Mediterranean to somehow force, or set the stage, for what they believe to be the inauguration of Christ’s earthly rule.

It is the exact same mentality.  They attempt to understand prophecy, and they see everything happening in this world and this time.

What they don’t see – mostly because they refuse to see it – is that what is described in Scripture is not of this world, but the spiritual struggles that exist beyond this world in Eternity.

They are, to use a word, short-sighted.  And dear brothers and sisters, that is dangerous.  To make decisions based on this world is to decide based on bad data.  It is guaranteed to be a bad decision.

As we go through the week, listen to the services and hear the prayers.  Listen especially to the Nocturns that we offer before the Pascha Vigil.  When you hear them, you will better understand the reality of what is happening.  Listen, as Hell and Death realize their mistake!  This is what is really happening.

An example:  When Hades encountered You, O Word, it was embittered. Seeing You as a mortal man deified, marked with wounds yet having almighty power, it cried out at Your awesome appearance.

The bonds of death are no more!  We can see the battle isn’t between the Jews and the Romans and Christ.  The battle is between the evil raged against us from the time of the fall.  The battle is of the triumph of Good, and the defeat of Evil.

So, by the Triumphant Entry, we see the people proclaim the restoration to life of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary of Bethany.  But the reality we see is significantly greater – the death of Death itself.  Not the end of physical death – that obviously still happens.  But the defeat of the ultimate Death – separation from God.

This world is significant, for sure, but only to the extent it prepares us for the Eternal One.  As we go through this week, enjoy the true triumph, bask in the glory of the Resurrection – which is the natural result of the defeat of Death.

And most importantly, be at peace!  The Lord will be, and is, victorious.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.