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Bishop's Homily for Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

March 24, 2024

[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu]

Jump on the bandwagon, everyone!  It will go here.  It will go there.  But jump on, because everyone is jumping on the bandwagon.

How fascinating that at the beginning of this liturgy, we heard of the people of Jerusalem welcoming Jesus as the Son of David, waving palm branches, and shouting, “Hosanna!  Hosanna!”  Then less than a week later, we see the people of Jerusalem waving their fists at Jesus and shouting, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  At one moment we see Pontius Pilate declaring the innocence of Jesus, insisting he had done nothing wrong.  And a moment later, when the mood of the crowd shifted, he condemned Jesus to death by crucifixion.  We witness Peter swearing to the Lord that he will never abandon him, and that he will go to death with him, and just a few minutes later, struck with fear, declaring strongly “I do not know the man!”

Yes, there was lots of bandwagon jumping that took place then – and still takes place, when we come together to profess our faith in Jesus, then go out and sin in all our creative ways.  We affirm life, but when a baby is unwanted, we turn to death.  We wish our government leaders would be more responsive to the real needs of the people, but we don’t vote to elect those leaders who will actually accomplish what we wish.  We affirm the dignity of each person, then we go out and gossip or bully on social media.  Yes, the bandwagon goes here and it goes there, but we jump on it because “everybody is doing it.”

In the midst of this, there is one who sets his face like flint, not shielding it from buffets and spitting to save himself, but suffering the fickleness of the world so that he can inspire some to follow him, to stand firm in the Truth that he is, and to refuse to jump on bandwagons just because “everybody is doing it.”  He does what seems most foolish and self-destructive by not jumping on the bandwagon of self-preservation, of not giving in to pressures to do as others expected him to do.  He became completely obedient to God, “emptying himself, taking the form of a slave,” even when it seemed to be so futile.  He refused to jump on the bandwagon of success, because he knew that his failure would turn the world on its head and bring to a screeching halt the bandwagon of Satan’s seduction.

It seemed that this one who set his face like flint in obedience to the Father had utterly failed, being snuffed out forever by those whom he dared to challenge.  Yet, he would be back, never to die again, never to leave us again.  And he is here with us, dying to himself by taking the form of food and drink to nourish us sinners.  He alone can enable us to set our faces like flint, to refuse to jump on bandwagons heading straight for destruction, and instead to jump on the cross, where failure seems to reign, but from which springs eternal life, hope, and the greatest joy.