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The Sunday Next Before Easter Commonly Called Palm Sunday
By 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 the publisher.



“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 his cross.

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.