Donald is terminally ill. He lives with this every day while trying to be a father to his three children and a loving husband to Olga. Donald does this courageously, because loving others is what gives him life. Jesus, like Donald, knows that his death is imminent, but he lives each day because he is the Messiah and son of God.
Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem is more about his final attempt to get more people to believe than it is about affirmation or acclamation. In these last moments, Jesus is making his final effort to announce that the reign of God has come and he is completing what he came to do. Now the Father waits for the people’s acceptance.
The woman’s anointing Jesus confirms this. It links these final days to the start of his public ministry when John baptized him.
Last, the woman anointing Jesus previews his burial anointing. Jesus affirms her prophetic action when he states that her kindness will be retold wherever the Good News is preached.
At his last meal on the feast of Passover, Jesus emphasizes the salvation he freely brings, just as when they were delivered from the clutches of the Egyptians. Jesus’ own willingness is affirmed in his appearances before the high priest and Pontius Pilate.
Peter’s denial is a warning to all Jesus’ followers, then and now, of what is demanded of anyone who claims Christ as Messiah. It is faithfulness above all else. It also foretells the need for Jesus, because no one can be saved without Jesus.
Pilate, the unknowing accomplice, carries out this act of salvation and actually leads Jesus to establish the reign of God over Roman authority. The people’s choice of the criminal Barabbas over Jesus will sting believers long after this event.
The Father stands with Jesus even as the crowds jeer and sneer. It is only the centurion, a Gentile, who acknowledges Jesus as the son of God. His affirmation of Jesus points to the future shape of the Church. For as sad as the Crucifixion is, the centurion’s words throw the light of hope on the horrific scene of Calvary and continue to dispel the darkness found in the world today.
Gift of the Cross
“No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.”
— William Penn
Homily Helps for the February issue were written by FATHER RICHARD R. DE LILLIO, OSFS, D. Min., an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, who is a recently retired associate professor of homiletics at The Catholic University of America.