Homily for Palm Sunday 2007

When I am sick, or worried or overworked, I find it difficult to be present to people. Especially someone who needs help. St Luke's passion account presents Jesus as someone who is always present to people even as he suffers and dies.

Jesus dies on the cross for all of us. Yet what touches us is that very personal response to one of the thieves on the cross who asks Jesus, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus reply is a climax to Luke's Gospel and goes far beyond what the thief would have expected, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." This is in response to a request just to remember the him. He does not even ask for forgiveness of his sin. Of course, the thief's whole attitude was one of recognition of his wrongdoing and his sense of justice to the innocent. We hope for such an encounter with our Lord.

It is so typical of Luke's Gospel to find Jesus calmly healing and restoring people. Here as Jesus dies on the cross Luke does not record as Mark does, Jesus' desperate cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" In Mark, Jesus dies in isolation without friend or relative and feeling forgotten by God. Here in Luke, however, Jesus serenely prays, "Father into your hands I commend my spirit." Even for the authorities and soldiers who had him crucified he prays, "Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."

We might have thought they knew very well what they were doing. The arrest and torture and death were demanded. Yet, Luke is presenting a side of Jesus, and hence of God too, that is one of compassion, healing and forgiveness in the midst of suffering.

Neither does Jesus come across as someone who is in control of his destiny as St John's Gospel presents him. We will read that account on Good Friday. Nor does he appear as the victim of corrupt men as in Mark. Rather, he is a person at peace with God and fellow human beings even in death. Everywhere he goes peace reigns so that even Herod and Pilate who had been enemies become friends.

This peace and serenity is something we all crave. The tensions of our lives can overwhelm us. We get lost and at times certainly do not know what we are doing. It can be so difficult when we are sick or worried to really be with another person. We are rarely so present to them as Jesus is even as he suffered.

We need the healing look of Jesus to Peter after he had denied knowing him three times. We need the healing touch of Jesus who repaired the ear of the man who was attacked by one of the disciples. We need the comforting words of Jesus to the women on the way to Calvary who wept for him. We need the forgiving words of Jesus to the thief on the cross in his dying moments.

But when we cannot respond like Jesus we remember that are not alone. The prayers of Christ intercede for us when we cannot pray. The prayers and action of each member of the Body of Christ can carry us when we are unable to pray or do anything. We are all part of Christ.

So to carry the cross with Jesus is for ourselves to give the healing look and touch. To give the comforting words when we would rather not. To forgiveness when it costs a lot. We have to personalise this Jesus for the people in our world.

Fr Graham