Sunday, March 24, 2013
Palm Sunday Homily: Fr. Andersen
A homily by Fr. Eric Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon
March 22nd, 2013 Dominica in Palmis de Passione Domini
On the feast of the Epiphany, we commemorated the three Gentile kings who came to pay homage to the Infant who was King of the Jews. Today, the same King of the Jews is acknowledged by the Jews themselves. The Gospels tell us that in the end times, the Jews will acknowledge Christ as the Messiah. Today’s first Gospel, read before the blessing of palms, is a prefigurement of the end times, when the Jews hail Him as Messiah King just before He finishes His earthly mission. They do this holding palm branches. In the Old Testament, on the feast of Tabernacles, God commanded that His people take branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows, along with ripe fruit, and rejoice. Holding palm branches in a procession is a sign of joy, so when the children of the Hebrews come out waving palm branches, it is a sign of joy. And there is a strange sense of joy on Palm Sunday. It is joy mixed with sorrow. We begin hailing the King of the Jews and we end by shouting out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him who called Himself the King of the Jews.”
Let’s return to this joy for a moment. We have been focusing on self-denial, repentance, sin, and God’s mercy through these forty days. In the Easter Season, we will recall to mind the gift of Baptism that gives new life through water and the Holy Spirit. Water is life-giving and we see that outside. Spring is in bloom. Nature is coming to life and as the flowers begin to bloom, the sun and the rain refresh them and nourish them with new life after a long winter. This Sunday has been historically called by the name of Pascha Floridum which means “Easter in bud,” about to burst forth in flower. The state of Florida got its name from Spanish explorers who discovered it on Palm Sunday in the year 1513, the day of Pascha Floridum, and named it Florida in honor of this great feast of Our Lord.
Our souls are like those flowers which have waited out the long winter of salvation history. Our souls are like gardens filled with buds about to burst forth. The Father has determined the times and seasons and brought us to this springtime of great promise. Jesus is like the sun which lights our way and warms us. The Holy Spirit is like the rain which refreshes us and gives us life. So if today is Easter in bud, about to burst forth in bloom, then we need to take special care of these gardens which are our souls. We need to take special care that the buds do not wither before they have a chance to bloom.