Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Imagining Our Role
We stood at the gates of Jerusalem as the Messiah King entered it. Our hearts are those very gates. How did you welcome the Messiah King? He is a very unlikely king, nothing like the messiah for which we long, not to mention Jesus’ contemporaries.
We do stand at the gates of Jerusalem because Jesus desires to enter our hearts and take possession of us. How do we respond today? Perhaps we might be like Peter and announce our faith with our lips but refuse to allow our hearts to own him in his suffering. Perhaps that is our typical struggle. Take courage because Jesus never disavowed Peter. Jesus sought him ought to restore him and build his church on him and his brother apostles.
What is your role in the Messiah’s Passion? Third-century bishop Gregory of Nazianzen suggested that each of us participate in it by finding who we are. I cannot improve on his suggestion to help us find ourselves:
“If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin. Worship him who has hung upon the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase your salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there. . .What you do is your role in his passion as much as it is in his resurrection. Take up your cross and follow Christ through your darkness into the light and the life Jesus desires to give you.
“If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make you own the expiation of sins for the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.”*
* Homily 45, 23-24 in Office of Readings for Fifth Lenten Saturday, Liturgy of the Hours, vol 2, NY: CBP, 1976, p. 393.
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