Passion (Palm) Sunday - Living, Not Dead

We gather this week, like generations of Christians before us, to celebrate the Holiest of Weeks, to share in the sacred, ancient rituals that enshrine the essential mystery of our faith - the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We make our pilgrimage, like generations before us, from sinfulness to holiness, from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom, from death to life. It should be a solemn and moving experience, an opportunity to be touched again by the power of the Risen Christ.

Next week, when we hear the Angel of Resurrection cry out: "Why do You seek the living among the dead?" it should make us examine very carefully the quality and nature of our faith. If we truly believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead, that he is alive, that he continues to live and work in and through those who believe in him, then we had better not gaze too long at the cross or linger too long at the tomb. We had better not treat Jesus in our mind, in our prayer, in our attitude as though he is a dead hero. We had better not bury him in history, or just remember his story as a fable or fairy tale. We should be certain that our worship is not some mechanical ritual repeated occasionally to keep up the charade of being Christian.

We certainly do not want to be numbered among those who worship a dead Jesus, one who has no influence on their lives or on their world - one who can no longer challenge or change them.

For all of us, the Triduum experience must be the turning point, the point of no return. We cannot and will not seek the living, risen Jesus among the dead. We will not go back to the darkness from which he has rescued us. We will not go back to sin and selfishness, which lead only to death. We will not go back to cowardice and weakness in the face of evil. We will not bury ourselves in hopelessness and despair.

Resurrection changed Jesus. For him, it wasn't just coming back to his previous life for a few more years. He came to a totally new kind of living, beyond time and space, and yet fully present through faith to the believers of each succeeding generation. And He promised so reassuringly that He would be with us all days, until the very end of the world.

So for us, too, resurrection must mean change. We cannot go back to the same old life. We are never again to feel alone, or separated from the Risen Lord. He comes to us, as He came to Peter and the other disciples - living, not dead - to forgive our denials and our human frailties.

He comes to us when our hope is shattered and we want to walk away; he appears beside us, - living, not dead - leading us to rediscover his presence in the breaking of the bread. He comes to us in Word and Sacrament - living, not dead! He comes to us in the poor and the sick and the frightened and the lonely - living, not dead! He comes to us - living, not dead - when we grow weak and feeble because of old age or illness, and he lifts us up with the assurance that he will stay with us through the valley of death until we, too, will rise with him to the fullness of life.

We come to Holy Week not in sadness and sorrow, but to worship the Risen and Living Lord, challenging us, changing us, enabling us to be courageous witnesses of his presence to others. And to them we can cry out: "Why do you seek the living among the dead? Come, walk with us, and we will walk with the Risen Christ - and together we will never know darkness, loneliness, despair or death again."