By Fr Munachi Ezeogu, cssp
Homily for Passion Sunday Mass
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From "Hosanna!" to "Crucify Him!"

Isaiah 50:4-7 Philippians 2:6-11 Matthew 26:14-27:66

In the old liturgy before Vatican II, Palm Sunday was observed one week before Passion Sunday. That gave people some time to savour the sweet echoes of "Hosanna, Hosanna!" for one week before they are confronted with the bitter cries "Crucify him, crucify him!" In the revised liturgy that we now have, the two celebrations have been brought together. At the beginning of Mass we commemorate the Lord's solemn entry into Jerusalem, a joyful celebration in which we join the people of Jerusalem in welcoming Jesus with happy shouts of Hosannas. Later in the same Mass we read the story of the suffering (passion) and death of our Lord Jesus Christ in which we hear the same people of Jerusalem shouting "Crucify him." The dramatic and emotional effect of bringing these two events in the life of Jesus' together is not easy to put into words. I will try to share with you some thoughts out of the inexhaustible spiritual insights that one could derive from meditating on this reality.

First, Jesus experienced glory and shame, success and failure, happiness and sadness, excitement and disappointment, ups and downs, highs and lows, and so must we. It would be naive for any follower of Christ to expect life to be a bed of roses at all times. It wasn't so for the master; it is not going to be so for us. The disciple is not above the master. We must not be so afraid of suffering, pain and contradictions. These are the ingredients with which Jesus prepared the banquet that brings us salvation. We in turn must partake of them to experience redemption. We must share in the cross of Christ to share in his crown. No pain, no gain. No cross, no crown.

Second point: human nature is fickle. It is the same crowd of the people of Jerusalem who shouted "Hosanna. Hosanna!" that also turned round a few days after to shout "Crucify him. Crucify him." Why? Because their material expectations were disappointed. They had expected Jesus to be a Messiah according to their own style, one who would descend with military might and flush out the Roman occupation forces and restore national glory to Israel. But when Jesus failed to meet their immediate expectations they turned against him. The same disease did not spare even the intimate friends of Jesus. Judas his trusted disciple turned round and betrayed him into the hands of his enemies. Peter the Rock, the head of the apostles denied him three times, swearing by God that he did not know Jesus, just to save his skin. The rest of the apostles took to their heels and abandoned him.

The people that welcomed him so enthusiastically on Sunday turned round on Friday and chose Barabbas in preference to Jesus. We go through the same process everyday that we are confronted with temptation. To sin is to choose Barabbas rather than Jesus, to heed the voice of the worldly Man of violence, Barabbas, and dismiss the gentle appeal of Jesus, the heavenly Man of peace. Every sin is like choosing to crucify Jesus all over again, for whenever we sin we are saying, "Not this Man but Barabbas."

Let us pray that through these holy celebrations we may derive the moral courage and spiritual strength to continue to sing "Hosanna. Hosanna!" come rain come shine, and nevermore to change our song into "Crucify him. Crucify him!" when we feel disappointed with God.

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