Homily - Mass of Palm Sunday (of the Passion of the Lord), Year A, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, 13 April 2014
Homily of Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP - Mass of Palm Sunday (of the Passion of the Lord), Year A, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, 13 April 2014
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It’s gone viral on YouTube. Cristina Scuccia appeared last month on the Italian version of The Voice – a popular TV show in which contestants sing in ‘blind auditions’. The judges sit with their backs to the hopefuls, only hearing their voices; if they approve the singer’s advancement in the competition they press a buzzer and turn around to see them for the first time. Cristina had barely begun her rendition of Alicia Keys’ No One when the audience leapt to its feet and roared in support. One after another the four judges, themselves all celebrity singers, pushed their buzzers and spun around. You can imagine their surprise at seeing a 25-year-old fully habited, glasses-wearing Ursuline sister of the Holy Family, veiled and in ‘sensible’ shoes. After assuring them she truly was a nun, she said “I came here because I have a gift and I want to share that gift. I’m here to evangelise.” When asked what the Vatican thought of her performing on stage she said she didn’t know but there might be a call any time from the Pope.
Why did she have such an effect? My guess is that it wasn’t just her voice and habit, but also her humble personality. She’s happy in her own skin and happier still in God. She’s a living example of Pope Francis’ call to all Catholics to be “missionary disciples” who draw others to God by attraction, by magnetism. To evangelise we must be happy ourselves: proclaiming the capital-g Good News won’t work if it’s not evident we’ve received good news in our own lives! What does it mean to have such happiness?
In those years when there’s no international World Youth Day, the popes have asked us to celebrate it with equal faith, if less pizzazz, on Palm Sunday. The greatest WYD wasn’t with a groovy Argentinian Pope in Rio or a brilliant German one in Sydney or a soon-to-be-sainted Polish one in Rome: it was with a Jewish man hailed as king even though He was riding a donkey, not a limo, into Jerusalem, with the young people waving palms and flags and singing Ancient Near Eastern pop-songs! Though today’s officially the 29th WYD you might say we’ve been waving WYD palms around for nearly 2000 years. And in his message for today, Pope Francis reflects on our two millennium long search. As St Augustine famously said in his Confessions, our hearts are restless: we are always thirsting for happiness.
We often look for happiness in the wrong places. In our Passion Gospel today: Judas thought he’d get happiness for 30 silver pieces; the apostles had too many drinks and just wanted to sleep and fight; the authorities thought a show trial would win them the approval of the emperor and the crowds; the soldiers wanted a bit of fun humiliating and torturing a poor Jewish guy. Sex, money, drugs, technology, power: all are counterfeits for happiness. To be happy, Pope Francis says, we must say no to the quick fix, the momentary buzz, the welcome distraction, “no to an ephemeral, superficial, throwaway culture”. These things only leave us empty inside and can damage us or others.
So what is the secret to happiness? We all imagine it’s a complicated thing, like some spell with lots of secret ingredients. The secret to happiness is one ingredient only: Jesus. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life; Jesus is the Light of the world; Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life (Jn 8:12; 11:25; 14:6). The young St Gus looked high and low for happiness and in the end he realised that our hearts only find rest when they rest in God. Christ the God-man on a pony is our way to the Blessed Trinity. That’s why He emptied Himself and assumed the condition of a slave (Phil 2:6-11). That’s why He humbled Himself to riding a donkey and ultimately a cross: to bring us true happiness; to join our hearts to God’s.
And how do we respond? Like Suor Cristina, we must use our gifts to evangelise, to give Christ to the suffering world. By becoming poor ourselves like Christ – saying no to the latest gadget or fashion and yes all our heart like Mary so that we become His imitators, His happy story-tellers, His Gospels. Happiness through Jesus Christ! Happiness with Jesus Christ! Happiness in Jesus Christ!
Palm Sunday 2014 Highlights
Go to Palm Sunday & World Youth Day 2014 Celebrations Photo Gallery
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