Palm Sunday/ Feast Day of Oscar Romero
So what does an assassinated Roman Catholic Archbishop have to do with Palm Sunday? It’s a good question. At the start of Holy Week, we are in a position for deep and serious reflection. On the one hand, we can enter this week with a misplaced sense of re-enactment- the idea that we are re-living the events of a certain week almost two thousand years ago.
Sometimes the re-enactment is what we need. To re-imagine the sights, sounds, and smells. To place ourselves in Jerusalem and feel the strain of oppressed people. Sometimes that memory is what we need.
However, there is another way to consider this week. It functions like a compass for our faith. The events of this week are our true North- they give us a sense of direction, a re-orientation to the landmarks of our faith. They put us on the right path.
That is where our focus should be, even in the midst of re-imagining and re-enacting. Palms in our hands, we are poised to be re-acquainted with the direction of our faith and its purpose. The events that are coming are not meant to overwhelm us with sadness or even a sense of unworthiness. The events of this week are meant to overwhelm us with the way that light overcomes darkness, that life overcomes death, that the forces that oppose God do not win the battle or the war.
When Oscar Romero became archbishop, he was appointed to that position, in part, because it was believed that his conservatism would keep him from siding with the poor who were rising up against the government. Both sides of this fight believed that he would not be involved. However, he watched a close friend get killed (shot) for trying to help the poor farmers and laborers, to end their oppression. Romero then realized that he could not remain silent. His understanding of Jesus meant that he had to speak out. He even worked to get his sermons on the radio for all to hear, sermons which frequently sided with the oppressed and called for the soldiers to end the killing of their brothers and sisters.
Archbishop Romero spoke frequently that he knew he would eventually be killed, but he could not abandon the work to which God had called him, work of siding with the poor of El Salvador, work of giving voice to the voiceless. This is the work for which he was killed.
That may not be the call for all of us, but each of do have a call- a call to carry the message of Jesus into the world And it is likely not something that makes us comfortable. It may not be as easy as we would hope. Nevertheless, our call into gospel living is clear… loving our neighbor, forgiving seventy times and then some, showing mercy to our enemies, working to end injustice against the poor and the disadvantaged, championing the cause of peace, and sharing what we have with all those around us.
It’s tough work and it can be awkward, but that is why we are here- in Holy Week- pointed toward the events of feasting, betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection.. We do not journey through this week to come out on the other side, relieved. We are on this trek of re-orientation so that we can be re-energized, knowing that we have been made right with God… and daring to go into the world proclaiming that death does not win.
The call of today is not only the cry of “Hosanna”. It is also, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” That one is the one who carries the God’s light into the world. On that first journey, it was a colt carried Jesus, the light of the world. The disciples were told to find the colt and to say, “The Lord has need of it.” As we look now for a way to carry light into the world, I say, “The Lord has need of you.”
The Lord has need of you… to proclaim the significance of this week… to get ready for Easter joy… to live into a faith in resurrection… to trust in God’s presence as you live courageously into your calling. In our Wednesday night soup suppers, we have been talking about what it means to be church and what the future of this church is.
The church is a place where we learn, together, how to live and how to die in Christ. That is the reason we exist. We learn and we live out what it means to be alive in Christ… now and forever. And this week, starting today… this week is our study week, our brush-up week, our re-focusing… because the other 51 weeks of the year are our exam.
We are poised now, palms in hand, to revisit the journey to the cross and then to the empty tomb. We are resetting our faith compass and we are preparing for the work to which we are called. In the words of Oscar Romero, ““If we are worth anything, it is not because we have more money or more talent, or more human qualities. Insofar as we are worth anything, it is because we are grafted on to Christ's life, his cross and resurrection. That is a person's measure.”
This is the grace we have received. And it’s not for nothing. It is so that we can carry Christ into the world. The Lord has need of you.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna.