The Sunday Next Before Easter Commonly Called
Palm SundayBy W. J. Hankey
from COMMON PRAYER, Volume Six: Parochial
Homilies for the Eucharist Based on the Lectionary of the Book of Common
Prayer, 1962, Canada. (p. 60-62)
St. Peter Publications
Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada. Reprinted with permission of
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”
Two kingdoms and two kings are in conflict this Holy Week. One
appears weak but it is the more powerful, it is the kingdom of life and
light; the other is the kingdom of this world and the reign of death and
darkness which always asserts its pretended empty power and pomp.
Almighty Power is not of this world, it is hidden and humble, it waits
for its subjects to recognize and submit to its rule: Pilate asks Christ
“Art thou a king then?” and Christ answers “Thou sayest it.” It is
Pilate who causes the title “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” to
be fixed upon the cross. Christ hides his power:
Put up again thy sword unto his place, for all they that
take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I
cannot now pray to my Father and he shall presently give more than twelve
legions of angels? (Matthew 26:52-53)The King of Glory rides to Jerusalem on an ass, he is silent in the face
of his accusers and infinite power is crucified as a criminal outside the
city wall. The other kingdom demands and grabs this world’s power.
It has a voice which cries “Crucify him, Crucify him,” a voice which puts
down every other power in order to feel and assert its own. So it
always appears to have its way with things and thus it will seem this week.
Once more God in his Church requires us to witness this titanic struggle
between two kingdoms, to observe truth and humility crushed by self-assertive
power and then to adore and celebrate weakness clothed with victory, death
overcome by life, our king triumphantly reigning through his cross.
Why do we follow this drama once more: the same which is unfolded in
every Eucharist, each celebration of the Holy Communion, why do we devote
this week to this old story? The reason is that it is the story of
two loves, two loves struggling for supremacy in each of us and only by
identifying ourselves with the fate of self-humbling truth can we assist
the true and good love to triumph in us. One love is the love of
self and power over others, this pride ultimately hates God, his goodness,
his law and his kingdom. This love of power over others builds the
kingdom of this world and shares its fate, the fate of a world which must
finally perish. The other love is the love of God and his right rule
even to the despising of self and the power claimed by the prideful self.
This love seeks a kingdom not of this world; it seeks rather an eternal
kingdom of life established in the destruction of this present world.
This is the kingdom Christ is seeking to build in us and for us by his
death and humiliation on the cross. To love him this week is to love
his kingdom and assist its life in yourself.
All this week we are concerned with powers, with kingdoms, and with
rulers: the shaping of our love will determine which kind of power and
which kingdom will reign and triumph in each of us. This struggle
goes on in each of us all the time in the most practical way. We
all have power of various kinds, we are clever, or good organizers; we
are hard workers, or likeable with power to influence and suggest; we are
parents, or we are students with the power to spend society’s wealth on
our education. Even our weaknesses give us power over others: note
the power of the sick or the young or the old or the lazy or the quick
tempered and sensitive: such people often exercise tyrannical power.
All of us have power of various sorts and kinds. This power we can
use to have our way and establish our will and reign over others or we
can use it to build the Kingdom of God by employing it to the good of our
families, those for whom we work, for our communities, our church, our
friends and our enemies, the good and the bad. We can use our power
in the service of God and His Kingdom or we can use it to build a kingdom
here and now for ourselves. We are all deciding which kingdom to
love and which to build every day of our lives. We can only love
and join the eternal kingdom of the humbling truth if we follow its king
as he rides on an ass today and if we love and adore him as he reigns on
This week the Church drinks deeply of Jesus both in her soul and her
body so that we may be wholly identified with him, so that this mind may
be in us which was also in the one who freely humiliated himself.
There is not much more to be said. Come and partake of his humility
and his suffering so that it may be in you redemption and resurrection.
And if through some urgent necessity you cannot come and see Jesus here
in the Church on the altar of his cross, and if you cannot hear his Passion
read, at least in your homes read the lessons as they are set out for this
week in the Prayer Book. Read, meditate, drink deeply, and worship
so as to imitate.
Deep inward drinking and eating of the Word, worship of the crucified
so as to imitate his Passion and partake of his Resurrection to this we
devote Holy Week. Too much talk prevents rather than helps, it turns
the terrible events into entertainments. So let me close by giving
three guiding principles for your reading of Holy Scriptures this week:
first, remember how he died, freely. Second, remember under what
he died, the law. Third, remember why Jesus must die, because he
chose to suffer rather than to sin.
First, Jesus died freely. Jesus was born a king, King of heaven.
In him was life. He had the power to take up his life and to lay
it down. Always look behind the scenes of the Passion and recollect
that what governs the humility and suffering you see here is power and
freedom. Never dare to pity Jesus, pity yourself. You do not
really have power over him. Jesus does what he does in obedience,
humility, suffering and death to give power for God’s Kingdom over all
these. Jesus dies to break the power of death and he succeeds.
Remember Jesus died freely. Worship his royal freedom this week,
worship Jesus hanging on the cross.
Second, remember that Jesus died under Pontius Pilate. Jesus died
in obedience to the law, a law he chose to obey. He could have summoned
his angel warriors and destroyed the power of the mob, of the priest and
of the Romans. He could have remained in heaven and avoided the death
of man. Jesus was not subject to the law that all must die for he
was without sin and in him was life. Jesus chose to obey and be subject
to the laws of nature and society for us. We who imitate him must
also learn to obey as he did. These are the marks of those follow
Jesus the crucified. We are called everyday to this obedience to
the law accepting joyfully and gratefully the limitations of our condition
so as to be turned from sin and suited for the freedom of heaven’s kingdom
in which the law is fulfilled.
Third, remember that Jesus died because throughout his life he taught
and enacted this principle, it is not what happens to us but what we do
which destroys us. It is not what goes into a person which is sin
but sin is what comes out of his heart. Jesus chose always to suffer
rather than to sin. Our world thinks that every disobedience to God
is justified if only suffering can be prevented. Jesus showed that
no amount of suffering justifies sin.
Our institutions, church, family, and our souls are in ruins because
we have followed the world rather than Jesus. If we follow him in
preferring suffering to sin, we shall surely suffer with Jesus. But
in Holy Week this is our whole desire, let us set ourselves to it.