Don’t be a bystander: A homily for Palm Sunday (A)

IMG_7949A good way to read scripture is to read a passage until a word jumps out and tthen talk to God about it. The word that jumped out at me today is one that pops up a few times in our text today. It’s “bystander.” The bystanders are the ones who sit on the side, who don’t really seem to care at all about Christ. They stand in opposition to Blessed Mother who never leaves Jesus’ side, Simon of Cyrene who carries the cross, Veronica who wipes his face, and the women who minister to him.

My brothers and sisters, we cannot be bystanders this week. We just made our solemn procession into the holiest week of the year. We cannot let this week pass like any other, standing on the sidelines. We have to enter into this week with great devotion, great love of Jesus, great prayer.

There is a painting that hangs at St. Meinrad the I dearly love. It’s Pieter Bruegel’s 1564 masterpiece, The Procession to Calvary. It is a painting of Jerusalem 2000 years ago. The painting shows activities taking place all over. Here is a tavern, there a man selling a horse. All sorts of commerce and sport and activity are taking place. Also in the painting is Jesus. He is carrying his cross. But nobody notices. Everyone is too busy with his own business. Nobody seems to be watching as Christ undergoes his passion, as he carries the cross for them.

That is where most Christians are. We look at the bad guys in the gospel today, the ones who spit at Jesus and mock him and beat him. The ones who condemn him. We think, I would never do that! And maybe we wouldn’t. But we are very often bystanders, and maybe that offends him more. We sit on the side, we follow God at a distance like Peter, we have our own concerns and schedules to keep thank you very much.

We’re too busy. Well God help us if we’re too busy for Jesus this week. The church gives us so many ways to not be bystanders this week. We have our penance service. We have the Holy Thursday Mass, a celebration of Jesus’ institution of the priesthood and Eucharist at the Last Supper. We have Good Friday, and there we remember the moment Jesus gave it all up. For you. And then Holy Saturday where we have the mother of all Masses, the Easter Vigil. New people enter the church, we welcome new life. All of that is ojr everything!!! It’s a week for lots of extra prayer and reflection, a time to have Jesus on our minds and in our hearts a lot more than usual.

So much happens this week!! We cannot be bystanders. We must fully enter into the mystery, the life and passion and resurrection of our Christ.

God help us if we’re too busy.