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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Ride to Betrayal

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai
Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.
We relive the events that brought about our redemption and salvation. We find our own dying and rising in Jesus' Passion, Death and Resurrection, which will end in our healing and reconciliation.

Attentive participation in the Holy Week liturgy will deepen our relationship with God, increase our faith and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus. Today’s liturgy combines contrasting moments, one of glory, the other of suffering: the royal welcome of Jesus in Jerusalem and the drama of His trial, culminating in His crucifixion, death and burial.

In the Shakespearean classic, Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare narrated the betrayal of Julius Caesar by his best friend Marcus Brutus. In that tragic play, Brutus was tricked into joining a team of conspirators who wanted to kill Julius Caesar. On the fateful day of Caesar’s assassination at the Capitol, he was stabbed in the back by his murderers, but the stab from Brutus came as a very big shock to him. He felt betrayed by a friend and was disposed to defeat. 

Shocked at the betrayal, Caesar died with the words “Et tu Brute?” (and you Brutus?). You may have had similar
personal experiences of betrayal by a trusted friend. 

These are usually very painful and traumatic experiences. In the light of our personal experiences of betrayal by a trusted friend, we can better understand the agony Christ went through in today’s passion narrative (Mt. 26:14-66 or 27:11-54). Judas, one of the closest friends of Jesus conspired with the chief priests to hand Jesus over to them at the cost of thirty pieces of silver. Perhaps, he thought Jesus would miraculously escape as he had always done, but the whole drama became clear to him only when Jesus was taken away to be crucified. His inordinate love for money led him to betray his master.

Most of us may have condemned Judas for betraying Jesus, but when we closely examine our lives, we find traces of Judas in us. When we develop inordinate love for money, making us indifferent, negligent or ready to kill someone

(including procuring an abortion), steal and lie just to fill our pockets, we are no better than Judas. Some of us in a bid to acquire wealth, power or fame betray people, harass others, abuse privileges, turn the truth upside down and sell expired and substandard goods including drugs. Maybe we just cut corners on our expenses and this results in a loved one's harm.

These actions are no less than the betrayal of Judas. Our human nature tempts us to indulge in any of these activities especially when we suffer lack. In situations like this, we have to obey the will of God which invites us to do only what is good and avoid what is evil. Like Judas, Jesus has also called us to be his special friends. We sit round his table and dine with him each time we participate in the Eucharistic celebration. Therefore, let us try not to betray Him for he has called us to strive towards perfection as is Our Heavenly Father.

On another note, while we recognize that many of us are like Judas, betraying Christ through their actions, we cannot fail to also recognize the fact that most of us are also suffering betrayal from our friends. Many have been betrayed by their

spouses, lovers, friends, relatives and those dear to them. Some have had to suffer betrayal on account of their openness or charity or trust reposed on people. 

Today’s first reading (Is. 50:4-7) is a message of hope for you. Do not feel disappointed in God for allowing you to pass through such terrible experiences. St. Peter advises us to rejoice when we share in Christ’s suffering because we shall shout for joy when his glory is revealed (cf. 1 Pet 4:13). 

Though we may suffer when we are determined to do good and avoid evil, the first reading also assures us that in the end, we shall not be put to shame. Christ -- though He was betrayed and killed -- was not put to shame because God raised him on the third day. Perhaps, your day of resurrection is coming soon; the day God will put an end to your sufferings and shame your enemies. Do not lose hope but remain steadfast in faith and fervent in prayer.

We need to answer five questions today: 1) Does Jesus weep over my sinful soul as He wept over Jerusalem at the beginning of His Palm Sunday procession? 2) Am I a barren fig tree? God expects me to produce fruits of holiness, purity, justice, humility, obedience, charity, and forgiveness. Am I a barren fig tree? Or worse, do I continue to produce bitter fruits of impurity, injustice, pride, hatred, jealousy and selfishness? 3) Will Jesus need to cleanse my heart with his whip? Jesus cannot tolerate the desecration of the temple of the Holy Spirit in me by my addiction to uncharitable, unjust and impure thoughts words and deeds; neither does He approve of my business mentality or calculation of loss and gain in my relationship with God, my Heavenly Father. 4)Do I welcome Jesus into my heart? Am I ready to surrender my life to him during this Holy Week and welcome Him into all areas of my life as my Lord and Savior? Let the palms/branches remind us that Christ is our King and the true answer to our quest for happiness and meaning in life. 5) Are we like the humble donkey that carried Jesus, bringing Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness and sacrificial service to our families, places of work and communities by the way we live our lives?

Are you a donkey with a Christian name or one carrying

Christ? An interesting old fable tells of the colt that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday. The colt thought that the reception was organized to honor 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 honored 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 whether we are Christians in name only.

Beloved friends, today, the Church encourages us to look inwards and see how much of Judas resides there. Like Judas, is there anything we value more than our union with

Christ? Like the crowd, are we always sincere in our chants of “alleluia”? Do we truly recognize Christ as the Son of David especially when there are forces pushing us to deny Him? Like Peter, have we denied Jesus when we should have proclaimed Him? If we find ourselves wanting, let us not be discouraged because it is for our sake that Christ died.

Like Peter, let us weep sorrowfully for our sins and repent of them. Therefore, as we begin the Holy Week, let us strive to join in the activities and also try to reconcile our broken relationship with God. It's a good time to go to confession, if you haven't already. 

Pope Francis going to confession 
The second reading (Phil. 2:6-11) presents Christ to us as an epitome of humility and obedience. He was humble and obedient even unto death. Let us try to imitate him and so, instead of betraying Jesus, let us obey and solidify our friendship with Him. Happy Sunday. God loves you.

Ad Maiorum Dei Glorium

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