Homily for Palm Sunday

Do we love the Lord? We want to, surely.

And why do we love him? I mean, why do I, you, each of us love him? Why are we bothered with him? Can we put it into words?

Why do we love him? We all feel, surely, that this Holy Week holds the answer. The Gospel we’ve just heard, all we’ll recall on Thursday evening, Friday afternoon, Saturday night, Sunday morning – the whole divine and human drama of his death and resurrection. Someone said it’s like a catastrophe, an earthquake, which brings us all together. It’s the great self-disclosure of God. And large enough for each of us to find their answer.

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  It’s hard not to think of Peter. Peter was so sure he loved Jesus. “Even if I have to die, I will never disown you.”  But that chilly evening, when a handful of folk became a minor threat, he did. He’s us of course. But then we remember what happened later, that sunlit morning by the Lake – after Peter had tasted his shame and lived the whole story of his Lord’s dying and rising. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”. “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.” And this was real.

Do we, and why do we, love the Lord? The whole grace of the Triduum is to bring us to Peter’s humble answer. It’s to make our love real. To give it a “why” that nothing can cancel.

The Son of God came into the world and went up to Jerusalem. From Mary’s womb, He took on our flesh, our humanity, our human life. But now he takes on our sinfulness and suffering and death. It was all real, all bodily. It was anguish, arrest and betrayal and denial, gratuitous cruelty, mental and physical violence, contempt, disgrace, all the way to “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” All the ways we are diminished and diminish one another are here in summary. The Passion was a sacrament of how things are apart from God. And Christ, says St Paul, took all this on. He took it in, ingested it, absorbed it, made it his own, utmost vulnerability, the most exposed person there ever was.  And so there’s no place we can end in he has not been already. He drank the cup he spoke of in Gethsemane. And from the depths of his divine and human holiness, thanks to the alchemy of his love, love has triumphed. Whatever that last great cry was for, it wasn’t vengeance or anger or hatred. Rather, it was prayer, the greatest epiclesis, invocation, ever; the most inclusive. And, rising, he came back to us and still comes back, one by one.  “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Words can complicate. Best to take the question away into our own thoughts. Why do we love him? Let’s reflect in silence.

St Mary’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, 24 March 2024


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