Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"Making Room for Love"
Homily for
Passion Sunday
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon

17 April 2011
Year A 

When he was a young college student, Karol Woityla – the soon to be Blessed Pope John Paul II – had a brilliant career ahead of him when he met a humble tailor, a layman, named Jan Tiranowski. Jan had organized a prayer group based on the living rosary. Jan was an ordinary man. Nothing set him apart from everyone around him. He looked like everyone else, lived his life like everyone else and did his job like everyone else. But it was through his guidance and witness that the young Karol Wojtyla heard his call to the priesthood. How often does it happen that we too find God speaking to us or showing His love for us in unexpected ways – yet at the same time we can miss it even though we know exactly where to find Him.

We see this exemplified in today’s Gospel passage and in the liturgy of Palm Sunday. Today we commemorate that day when Christ made His way into the City of Jerusalem amidst a throng of people shouting in jubilant praise. They know who is coming to them and St. Matthew makes that clear when he quotes the Prophet Zachariah: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘Behold your king comes to you…” This is a fulfillment quotation; one day the messiah-king would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Silently yet boldly Jesus announces the kingdom, that the messiah has come to them. And the people know this because they know the scriptures. They roll out the red carpet for Him by spreading their cloaks on the ground, an act of homage before a king. Others wave their palm branches in the air – the symbol of victory in festive procession – and they shout: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The term ‘hosanna’ is actually Greek for “save us.” And rightfully so, Jesus’ name means “God saves.”

But there is a problem. How is it that these people can hail Jesus as king, welcome Him with great joy into their city, wave palm branches and lay their cloaks down before Him only to taunt, revile, and reject Him just a few days later? They certainly know the scriptures and they know how the messiah was supposed to come to them. But they had built up their own image of the savior. They had decided beforehand who the messiah would be for them. It is not just Jesus they are welcoming but it is Jesus as a means to fulfill their plans and schemes – that being to overthrow the Roman authorities and restore the Kingdom of Israel to what it once was under King David. They want a political uprising. They have no room for love. They have no room for a messiah who is love. Love does not solve their problems in the way they would expect power. For them, the messiah is power.

How often do we make the same mistake as the people of Jerusalem so many centuries ago? We know where to find Christ in our lives – in Sacred Scripture, in the living Tradition and teachings of the Church, here in this place and above all, in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, at the Sacrifice of the Mass. But, who is Jesus for us? Very often we come here to church with our own ideas of who Jesus is for us. And we can get frustrated when He does not speak to us or when He does not fulfill our plans. We should ask ourselves then, what are we looking for in Him? Who have we decided Jesus would be for us? Do we come here with the mentality that He is a “Mr. Fix-it” whom we accuse when things go bad or when He does not meet our expectations? Are we too busy looking for Him to show His power, proof of His presence in our lives or even His very existence, that we fail to recognize when He shows us His love? Are we too busy to even give Him the chance? Or, do we lay our hearts before Him in an act of humility and look for Him in love? Knowing where to find Him, can we hear Him speak to us in the quiet whispers of our hearts?

Just as the future pope was able to hear the voice of God speaking to Him through his friend, we too ought to be able to hear the voice of God, the true God, here at Mass, in our own prayer, and so on but only if we are listening to the voice of Love. We cannot presume to be able to hear Him though, if it is our voices that place illogical expectations on God. Rather, as Holy Week begins, we stand at the gates of the City of Jerusalem, with Jesus, ready to walk with Him to Good Friday. This week, let us make it our prayer – an act of penance – that our Lord may dispel from our minds these faulty expectations and to come to Mass with open hearts – hearts that are capable of hearing His voice in the most unexpected of ways and thus coming to know the true God – the God of love – and our true selves.



Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA


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