Homily starter anecdotes:

1.Reminder of Maccabean victory celebration: A key element of understanding the connection between the Palm Sunday reception given to Jesus and Good Friday is to recognize that the actions, words, and symbols of Palm Sunday indicated a religious and political Messiah who would save the Jews from foreign rule and regain for them religious and political freedom. The occasion of this reception was carefully chosen by the Lord God to coincide with the Passover feast which celebrated the Jewish liberation from Egyptian rule and slavery. The palms used in the procession and the slogan used (“Hosanna!” meaning “Save us, God!”) were probably used by Judas Maccabaeus and his men December 14, 164 BC, when they purified the Temple from the pagan Greek desecration begun on that same date in 167 BC by order of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and in the June 3, 141 BC victory parade to the Temple after Simon Maccabaeus, last of the family, had retaken and cleared the Citadel in Jerusalem.

In 1 Mc 13:51, we read: “On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred seventy-first year, the Jews entered it with praise and palm branches, and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments, and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel.” (At present, the Jews all over the world, celebrate this festival as Hanukkah). It was natural, then, that the Romans saw the crowds of people carrying palm branches and giving a royal reception to a very popular, miracle-working rabbi, Jesus, as a potential threat to their power and a banner for revolution.

Hence, the governor Pilate and his counsellors were justified in their concern. They interpreted people’s slogan “Hosanna!” as “Save us” from Roman occupation! Besides, the Jewish rabbis had been teaching that the final redemption of the Jews would take place with the Messiah’s arrival. With 1½ to 2 million Jews in and around the city for the Passover, the situation was highly volatile, and Jesus’ ride on a donkey, as prophesied by Zechariah, seemed to have all the signs of producing great trouble and revolt. So, the Romans informally made allies of some of the Temple priesthood (largely Sadducees), who were planning to arrest Jesus (the suspected centre for the trouble), because these priests were the people most closely allied to Rome, and they would lose their power and income in the case of a popular uprising. This collusion between Pilate and the High Priest Caiaphas and their supporters is exactly what we see in the Passion accounts describing the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. Given the political, religious, and social context, this is hardly surprising. Keeping that in the back of our minds helps us to make sense of certain parts of the action that will follow.


2. Are you a donkey with a Christian name only, or one carrying Christ? An interesting as well as challenging old fable tells of the colt that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday. The colt thought that the reception was organized to honour him. “I am a unique donkey!” this excited animal might have thought. When he asked his mother if he could walk down the same street alone the next day and be honoured again, his mother said, “No, you are nothing without Him who was riding you.” Five days later, the colt saw a huge crowd of people in the street. It was Good Friday, and the soldiers were taking Jesus to Calvary. The colt could not resist the temptation of another royal reception. Ignoring the warning of his mother, he ran to the street, but he had to flee for his life as soldiers chased him and people stoned him. Thus, the colt finally learned the lesson that he was only a poor donkey without Jesus to ride on him. As we enter Holy Week, today’s readings challenge us to examine our lives to see whether we carry Jesus within us and bear witness to Him through our living or are Christians in name only.


3. Zechariah foresaw it. Jesus fulfilled it: The Greek author Plutarch describes how Kings are supposed to enter a city. He tells about one Roman general, Aemilius Paulus, who won a decisive victory over the Macedonians. When Aemilius returned to Rome, his triumphal procession lasted three days. The first day was dedicated to displaying all the artwork that Aemilius and his army had plundered. The second day was devoted to all the weapons of the Macedonians they had captured. The third day began with the rest of the plunder borne by 250 oxen, whose horns were covered in gold. This included more than 17,000 pounds of gold coins. Then came the captured and humiliated king of Macedonia and his extended family. Finally, Aemilius himself entered Rome, riding in a magnificent chariot. Aemilius wore a purple robe, interwoven with gold. He carried his laurels in his right hand. He was accompanied by a large choir singing hymns, praising the military accomplishments of the great Aemilius.) That, my friends, is how a King enters a city. But the King of Kings? He entered riding on a lowly donkey. Zechariah envisioned the King of Kings, the Messiah, coming not on a great stallion, but riding on a humble donkey. Zechariah foresaw it. Jesus fulfilled it.


4. Hurray to Marconi: When the ‘Unsinkable Titanic’ sank in the abyss of the Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912, 1517 people lost their lives. However, 705 people escaped death thanks to the radio communication established between Titanic and Carpathia. When the radio message was received by RMS Carpathia, a transatlantic passenger steamship, it raced at high speeds to pick up the survivors in lifeboats. When Carpathia arrived in New York, Marconi who had invented and introduced radio communication, was at the port to receive the survivors. When the survivors heard that Marconi was there, they sang his praises saying he was their ‘saviour’ and they thronged to see him. Two thousand years ago people sang the praises of Jesus in Jerusalem and they thronged to see him when they found out he had come to save them from their sins and give them new life.