No public Masses are being celebrated in the Diocese of Wilmington as part of the effort to fight the spread of coronavirus. The Dialog has been providing Sunday homilies prepared by priests of the diocese. This one for Palm Sunday is provided by Father Brian Lewis, administrator for St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Denton, Md., and St. Benedict in Ridgely, Md.
Below is the homily he prepared:
As a priest, I could always count on one thing on Palm Sunday: that as parishioners were leaving Mass, they, both young and young at heart, would show me what they had made with the palm branches they received. It made me laugh every time they said, “Father, I hope you don’t mind, but I made these during your homily.” Some fashioned roses out of them; others made crosses; a few made crowns of thorn; while still others simply wove or plaited them. Then after seeing the smile on my face, they’d make their way home to place their palms behind their Crucifix as a way of showing our Lord that they are willing, with Hosannas of praise, to hail Him as King and walk the Way of the Cross with Him.
What I could count on in the past, I cannot this year. For the safety and well-being of all during the shelter-at-home order, as you already know, no palm branches will be distributed this year on Palm Sunday. Once our parish doors are allowed to open again, they will be made available. But until such time, we are feeling now what we have felt throughout this crisis: empty-handed and likely because of a seemingly all-pervasive fear and anxiety, even empty-hearted.
My dear sisters and brothers in Christ, though we are not holding palms today, we nevertheless still have palms in our hands, don’t we? It matters most what we do with these palms.
You who are husband and wife, you placed your palm in your spouse’s when you exchanged your vows before God and His Church. Place your palms together now remembering those vows as a resounding Hosanna to our King.
You who are brothers and sisters, you’ve used your palm as a sign of support, patting each other’s backs after sports wins and academic achievements and as a sign of encouragement, resting your palm on their shoulder to let them know you’re there for them when times are tough. Let them know that now with your palm, a Hosanna of standing faithfully by their side.
Children, you have placed your palm in your parents’ to keep you safe while you crossed the street when you were younger. No matter how old you are now, your parents still try to keep you safe. Place your palm in theirs as a Hosanna of gratitude that you have crossed the streets of life safely because of them.
Grandparents, you have nestled your grandchildren’s cheeks in your palms to let them know how much they mean to you. Let them know that now by cradling their faces with your palms in a Hosanna of legacy and heritage.
You see, do you not? my dear Friends in Christ, that what we’ve made with these palms means significantly more than roses and crosses made with palm branches, for the palms of our hands are to be Hosannas of abiding love.
Is that not what our Savior Jesus Christ teaches us through His Passion? When Judas Iscariot feels the weight of thirty pieces of silver in his greedy palm as he betrays Jesus with a kiss, our Lord responds by calling Judas “Friend,” as if He were extending His palm to give Judas the chance to turn away from his betrayal.
When the crowds come to arrest Jesus, their palms hold clubs and swords; Jesus’ palms are empty, holding on to nothing but the Will of the Father.
When members of the Sanhedrin raise their palms to slap His face, our Lord simply keeps His palms steady, because His hour has come.
When the Roman soldiers use their palms to scourge Jesus’ back, He does not respond with hatred nor curses, but rather, He keeps His palms upturned to God, praying for the Father to have mercy upon them.
Only Simon of Cyrene uses his palms to help Jesus as He makes His weary way to Golgotha by helping our Lord bear the unbearable weight of the Cross.
Yet, the greatest way to use palms is shown by our Lord Himself to manifest how profoundly He loves you and all of humanity: by letting Roman soldiers pierce each of His palms with a nail.
When He will be resurrected, to prove to His disciples that He is truly risen, Jesus will show them the nailmarks in His palms, and they will rejoice. You see, Sisters and Brothers in Christ, He bears that sign of Supreme Love even in Heaven to show that while palm branches might be used for waving or weaving, palms are best used for loving.
So Saints-in-the-making, while this year, you and I do not have palms to weave into roses or crowns or crosses, we do have these palms to show God and one another that we have indeed learned from Jesus the Christ the value of His Sacrifice that came at great cost to Him, for there on the Cross, He teaches us that these, the palms that God gave us when He created us, should always be used-and only be used-as Hosannas of Christ-like love.
Jesus Christ must increase; I must decrease. John 3:30