Palm Sunday 2020 – Fr. Gribowich Homily

Okay – good morning, everyone! I hope that you’re still all here with us. Like I promised, it was going to be a little messy, because the story that we had just heard is messy, right?

And this story, of course, is something that we know inside and out. I mean how many Holy Weeks have we gone through where we’ve heard the Passion. For those of us who participate in the service on Good Friday, we end up hearing two versions of the Passion throughout the week – today, and of course then on Friday, as well.

Yet, none of us have heard the Passion during the time that we’re facing right now, with this Coronavirus. In a certain sense, what we just heard, I think has a brand new relevance in our lives, and I think we can relate very much to Jesus screaming on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why have you abandoned me?”

There is the sense that, where is God in this moment? And it’s very, very understandable, and I think that there are really no easy words for any priest or any wise person, so to speak, to give us some type of meaning as to dealing with what we’re dealing with right now.

Yet, it is interesting when looking upon the Gospels that we’ve heard today a certain word that comes up in both the first Gospel that we heard before the blessing of the palms, and in the Gospel that we just heard now, and that is that when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, it said that the city shakes -there was like an earthquake. That’s kind of how in some ways it can be translated. And of course, we just heard right here that when Jesus dies, the earth quakes. And if you go to the Greek, it’s the exact same word, and well it could, may sometimes be just considered to be an earthquake. It’s something far greater than that. Perhaps the best way to look at it is an earth-shattering moment occurred, meaning that whatever happened in the past can no longer be somehow reconstructed, that from this point forward things are going to be different.

You know that Holy Week is a very interesting week, because it begins where things seem to be okay. Jesus comes in to much praise – people are holding up branches and saying Hosanna in the highest, giving him praise and of course, a few short days later everything changes, and the same people who were saying Hosanna start saying “crucify him”. I think that we can all relate to how fast things in our lives have changed, how things seem to be going great, how we had this really comfortable relationship with God, if we had a relationship with God, and now it’s like, what is going on? And it’s only been a matter of weeks that all these things have changed.

I think we can relate very well to what Jesus was experiencing – this sense of acceptance to rejection. Yeah, I think it’s important for us at this time to look at what it is that Jesus offers us. You know when this coronavirus came, we all had to change our lives. and when this coronavirus is now going to be taking the lives of many of our people that we know – loved ones – our lives will be changed. And we have to look at this new sense of behavior and this new facing of mortality with a new set of eyes, a new pair of eyes, with a new pair of ears, with a new heart.

Yet Jesus comes to us not in order to inspire us, to just trust in him. I don’t know how many times I’ve told people at this time God does need you to trust in him. Have faith, because to trust in God or to say that we need to trust in God or have greater faith is just not adequate this time. We can’t just say, have trust in God – everything’s going be fine. Those words are somewhat empty. And they’re empty because it’s not really the message of Jesus.

Jesus comes to us – God becoming man – not so that we can just say trust God, who’s all the way out there. God comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ so that we can trust ourselves more. That’s ultimately what we have to look at.

Jesus reveals to us that God is in a love affair with us.  And how do we understand love? Well, we can understand it with our own human desires. We all desire to be completely loved by another. We all desire to want to give love to another. This is a fundamentally human desire. And the Lord says that is not an empty desire, and that’s just not meant to be there so that we can just kind of run around trying to find our romance story. It’s there to give us assurance, assurance that that desire will and can be met.

You know right now, what is happening is all of our plans are unfolding. it’s what happens in the Gospel stories to the great plans that all the people who were cheering Jesus had, that this guy being the Great King who’s going to restore peace to Israel. Well, those plans start to fall apart and we see even Peter trying to once again take out the sword, trying to make sure that Jesus doesn’t go to the cross.  Those plans start falling apart right now – our plans are unraveling before our eyes.

Yet, can we ask ourselves a simple question right now? Does God love us more than our plans? Does God love us more than the vacations that we were planning on going on? Does God love us more than how we are going to structure the rest of our senior year if we are in school? Does God love us more, more than how we are planning our retirement or how much our 401k is worth? Does God love us more than even people in our lives who love us? Does God love us more?

Jesus wants to show to us that even the thing that we fear the most – death – cannot stop us from the love of God. We’re born into this world to die. Yet, it’s a death that frees us from fear, that frees us from the need to have to make plans, for the needs to have to be in control. Jesus doesn’t want us to just simply think about something that’s going to happen later on in the future where everything’s going to be fine and where – let’s go back to normal. Jesus doesn’t want us to be normal. He doesn’t want us to go back to where we lived before this whole pandemic began.

I think we have to ask ourselves a serious question – were we really totally happy before this virus hit? Was everything always perfect? I’m sure there were things that need to be changed. This is an opportunity to see how much God reveals love in the midst of suffering.

Jesus goes to the cross not because he wants to – even pleads, saying I don’t want to do this, I don’t have to go through this. Yet, he knows that this is the only way to free us from fear, to free himself from fear. Not because suffering is a good thing, but because it allows us to be fully opened to our desire to be loved.

For those of you who have fallen in love, you don’t want to control your partner, right? We all know the problems of controlling relationships. That’s not the type of relationship that God wants enter into us, where he’s controlling us or we’re trying to control God.  He wants an open desire to be loved, and God has the same desire to be loved by us.

I can guarantee you that minute by minute as we go through this time of the unknown that you will be opened to the ways that God will reveal his love. You know I was thinking about this in the context of one of my great heroes Dorothy Day. It’s a story that she talks about I think when she was 8 years old and she was living in Oakland, California. It was during the time of the the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and she writes in her memoirs a very powerful impression of that moment when the earth literally shook, and she writes in there, “I remember most plainly that the earthquake was a time of human warmth, and kindliness. After the earthquake everyone’s heart was enlarged by Christian charity. All the hard crust of worldly reserve and prudence was shed. Each person was a little child in friendliness and warmth.”

“While the crisis lasted, people loved each other. They realized their own helplessness while nature travaileth and groaneth. It was as though they were united in Christian solidarity. It makes one think of how people could, if they would, care for each other in times of stress, unjudgingly with pity and with love.”

Dorothy Day was a child when her whole earth shook, but it was more than that – it was an earth-shattering moment for herself, knowing that God’s love is revealed in the most trying of ways.

Today, as we enter into this Holy Week, maybe look at each step of our way to Calvary – the current Calvary that we’re facing – as a means of somehow opening ourselves to letting go the need to be in control. And to trust our desires more, to trust the desire to be loved. And the more that we trust that desire, the more God will give us that love.

May God bless you.