Palm Sunday Sermon by Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly
"He has not left us also without the means of serving Him, stripped as we are of so many of the familiar rituals and customs and devotions and liturgies of Holy Week. We’re stripped down bare. But He has not left us without what we need, because He is with us."
A week ago on Friday, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, spoke these words to the world and to each one of us: "We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love.”
Pope Francis spoke these words from the middle of an empty St. Peter’s Square on a rainy, Roman night; and they were spoken to the world and to heart of each one of us. We have an anchor; we have a rudder; we have a hope: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the same, yesterday, today and forever. Jesus our brother, who left his Father’s home in the heavens to come in search of us and to bring us home; and who went to the very depths of human suffering and humiliation, to the very lowest place to find us and to bring us back.
Though he was in the form of God, as St. Paul says, he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself all the way to death, all the way to death on a cross. He went to the very lowest place, so that in all of our lowest places we would fall into Him, encounter Him, be embraced by Him—no social distancing, no spiritual distancing. He is close to us.
We have an anchor; we have a rudder; we have a hope.
Only one, the only one we need. Jesus Christ, the same: yesterday, today, and forever. The same in the midst of this storm. In this storm, in this crisis, He has not left us. In this darkness He has not abandoned us. In this time of suffering and isolation, He has not forgotten us. He has not left us also without the means of serving Him, stripped as we are of so many of the familiar rituals and customs and devotions and liturgies of Holy Week. We’re stripped down bare. But He has not left us without what we need, because He is with us.
The Holy Father pointed out in his homily two things that He has given us: prayer and quiet service. In prayer and quiet service in our homes, in the silence of our hearts, socially distant but spiritually close; with prayers lifted up to the Lord, lifted out of the depths. So many low places now, so much suffering. We lift up our prayers for all who suffer, all our brothers and sisters—we are all in the same boat. But of course, we are always all in the same boat, we just don’t know it. We are only one family, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the same loving God.
In our homes this week, socially distant, spiritually close, we are given the gift of time to think about these things, to think about what happened to Him, to think about what He did, what He freely chose, and He freely chose it out of love: He Himself said no one takes my life away from me, I lay it down freely, and I take it up again, and this is done out of love for us. We think about these things as they unfolded in His life in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. But this same mystery unfolds in our life now because we are part of the body of Christ. And it unfolds in our life in these days and in this week, this Holy Week, in new and dramatic ways.
In this time of crisis, He is with us, as we enter into this holiest of weeks, enter in with lives so drastically changed from anything we could have foreseen, anything we would plan for ourselves for sure. We enter it with the hope that exists in our hearts, that is His gift to us. We enter into this with trust in Him; trust that He is with us, that His providence rules our lives still; and that this providence is not something impersonal, not something generic, but concrete and immediate, and personal for each one of us. He is with each one of us individually, and all of us together.
It is important for us to remember that He has chosen us, and that He has chosen us to live in these times, to serve Him and to rise to the challenge of serving Him now, not simply to mourn what we don’t have, but to serve Him with the abundant gifts that He gives us at this moment. Because we are not only among those who live under His providence, who receive this as gift. We are called not only to believe in His providence in our own regard, but we are also called in this moment to rise up and to enact that providence. To be agents and instruments of His presence, of His power, of His love, of His justice to others, to our brothers and sisters in need. He has not left us without the means to do that. And He has given us gifts that He Himself has set before us in these days even as we are stripped down of so many things.
And so it is so important, it is His invitation to us to turn to Him, to go to him. He is here with us, this man for others, for us, this man of sorrows. And we experience this sorrow in new ways in our own life but it is shared with His. We are also called to share in His victory as the risen Lord of life, master of the universe, even the wind and the seas obey Him. We put our faith in Him.
We have an anchor; we have a rudder; we have a hope.
Jesus Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. All time belongs to him and all the ages, including this time and this age, these days, and us. We belong to Him.
We have an anchor: by His cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by His cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope, only one hope, the only hope we need. By His cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from His redeeming love. Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today and forever.