Palm Sunday ~ SMC, 5 Apr 2020
Today we begin what is known as HOLY WEEK – the most sacred week of each year for Christians for it succinctly recites the mystery of our salvation. In this year of St. Matthew`s Gospel we begin with his record of Our Lord`s entry into Jerusalem with, uniquely, an ass with her colt being used by Jesus thus fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. The entry is a triumph and the disciples cover the animals with their garments and the crowd spreading their garment on the road together with branches from the trees and the shout goes up: `Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!` We shall echo this later in the Mass as we say the Benedictus. Yes, it is a triumphal entry but the king is the King of Love, the King of Humility who turns earthly values upside down. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves too that it is the same crowd who, on the first Good Friday, would cry `Let him be crucified!` as we heard in the reading of the Passion according to St. Matthew chapters 26 and 27 and this taking place less than a week from the Triumphal Entry. At once we witness our human fickleness and also the steadfast purpose of the Saviour as he completes his pilgrimage to the Holy City and makes himself the means of our salvation.
Jesus is both the Saviour of the World and the Head of the Church.
We have been looking at how the church is made up, particular roles within the church – church officers like churchwardens and countless others who hold various functions in the church both locally, nationally and internationally and across all ages and times. Jesus is the Head of the Church and we and all the baptised, living and departed, and the saints who have gone before us with the sign of faith, make up the Body of the Church. The union of Christ with and in his Church is well described in the `Catechism of the Church` which explains that the Church – a word which comes from the Greek Kyriake which literally means “what belongs to the Lord” and so the Church “Lives from him, in him, and for him: he lives with her and in her”. This is how the Church becomes the Bride of Christ as well as his Body. He is the Head, we and all who make up the Church, are his Body and the two are inseparable. Scripture, in the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians 1: 22 – 23 says that God gave Jesus “as head over all things to the church, which is his body” He is head because of his primary role in our creation and our redemption. He brought forth the Church and gave it life through his death and resurrection. There is a lovely tradition that the Church was born when the centurion Longinus pierced the heart of Christ on the Cross and whose lance is preserved this day in the Armenian Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin – Armenia which was the first country to embrace Christianity as its official religion.
Through our Baptism we are united with Christ as his Body though he is the Head - the one who directs and each one of us, in his or her different ways and gifts, rather after the example of different limbs and organs of the body, has gifts and functions to perform as Christ`s Body, in which we share in his work. Yes, the wonder of our calling as Christians is that Jesus trusts us and by His Holy Spirit he give us the grace to share in his work of salvation. He speaks and acts through us and through us Christ shows forth the love of God for the whole human race. United with Jesus in his time of suffering, someday we will share his glory. Be assured that we and all the human race facing the consequences of the pandemic of Covid-19 have Jesus our Saviour and Head of the Church with us in the here and now.
As I have said we became part of the Body of Christ, His Church, through the waters of baptism and we are sustained in our lives in and His Church through His Word and Sacraments and, most notably, when he feeds us on His Body and Blood as we approach His Altar in the Mass when he give Himself to us veiled under the forms of bread and wine. Remember that St. John, in his gospel at chapter 15 and verse 5, quotes these words of promise of Jesus, “I am the vine, you are the branches…” and in chapter 6 and verses 56 to 58 he says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your fathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live for ever.”
St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians chapter 4 and verse 15 has this to say about our relationship with our Head, “We should grow every way into him who is the head, Christ,” In other words it is our duty and service to strive to become more and more like him.
By God`s grace I shall have more to say on Holy Thursday by way of honouring that Holy Day and by developing thoughts on that supreme act of Headship and Sacrifice that Jesus begins with the Last Supper, by which means he feeds us for all eternity, and by His self-offering of Himself as the Perfect Sacrifice – the Lamb of God who takes our sins away.
We sometimes forget that Christ`s Church is a school for sinners and, in a special sense, it is only at the end of time when Our Saviour and Head returns in the triumph of his Glory that the Church will be perfected. It is then that we will be judged and gathered in Christ in the perfect love that knows no end.