• April 22, 2015

Last Sunday 29th of March St. John Vianney Seminary celebrated the Palm Sunday also known as the Passion Sunday. This Solemn celebration commemorates the Christ triumphal entry into Jerusalem before the Passover. It is with such celebration of the passion Sunday that we begin our Holy week. The whole community of the Seminary and our Sunday visitors gathered outside the senior residence, called John XXIII, for the blessing of the palm branches.

The Palms were blessed by Fr. Nhlanhla Mchunu who also presided over the Eucharist. Thereafter the blessed branches were carried in procession, which was accompanied by the lively and inspiring music. On arrival at the main Chapel the Eucharist began with the liturgy of the word, passion Narrative and concluded by the inspiring homily delivered by Fr. Nhlanhla Mchunu.

We Thought it fitting that this year we share with you an invigorating and inspiring homily given by Fr. Nhlanhla on this special celebration of our spiritual life. On that note we take this opportunity to wish all our Students, Formation and domestic staff, our Benefectors, visitors, friends and everyone a Blessed, and fruitful Holy week. Here follows the homily in full:

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the holiest week of the year, the week we call Holy Week. Today we recall that day, when about 2000 years ago, Jesus achieved for us victory over sin and evil. During this Holy Week, that victory is extended into our lives, into those parts of our lives that still feel the scourge of sin and evil.

In the Ancient world, palm branches were the symbol of victory. Palms for the Romans symbolised victory. When the Romans started conquering other nations in the Mediterranean, their generals brought palm trees to Rome as souvenirs of their victories. Palm branches are also used in Christian art. Statutes and paintings of Christian martyrs almost always show them holding palm branches as symbols of victory: their martyrdom was their victory; they found strength and joy even as they were being tortured to death. Nothing could extinguish their love for Christ.

Once again, in the ancient world, when generals went to war they rode on the most effective and powerful horses. After winning the battle, they will parade in the city riding on a donkey to mark and to celebrate their victory. When people saw this gesture, they hailed and cheered at the victorious king. Jesus also today rides on a donkey proclaiming his victory before Good Friday. But he is also driving into our world the virtue of humility.

So, the crowds waving palm branches as Jesus entered Jerusalem were declaring his victory. But what victory?
Dear brothers and sisters, if we dig deeper into today’s celebration we discover how faithful our God is. We can trust such a God because He is not capable of deceiving us nor wounding us. Maybe some of us have had their trust in other people destroyed. As a result, some of us have built walls around our hearts, to protect ourselves from being let down again. The Passion of Christ is God’s way of trying to win back our trust. The Passion of Christ is God saying to us: “No matter what you do, I will keep on loving you, because a man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). Dear brothers and sisters, wounded as we are, we need to hear that God loves us unconditionally.

Jerusalem in today’s Passion story represents every human heart. Just as Jerusalem was surrounded by huge stone walls, every human heart too is surrounded by walls, and Jesus wants to go through those walls today and win my heart and yours.

Jesus through His Passion, death and resurrection reversed the disobedience of the first Adam. About a week ago in the dining room we were talking with some Fathers, over beans, about the story of Abednego, Meshach and Shedrack, that God did not extinguish the fire which they were thrown into. Instead, God entered the ball of fire with them.

Today’s celebration reminds us that Jesus did not save us from far away. No, he “emptied himself” coming down into the mess of this sinful world. He took upon himself the sufferings and pain of humankind “I gave my back to those who beat me”.

Imagine a man carrying an important message through the jungle. As he walks through the jungle, he sees something shining like gold from a distance. But he keeps on his path because of the important message he is carrying and the jungle is dangerous. But he sees the flashing gold again. This time his curiosity takes over and he wants the gold. He abandons his mission, leaves the path and goes after the gold. He follows it far from the path. Suddenly, he feels the ground beneath him give way. It’s a trap. He finds himself in a pit. The walls are too steep for him to climb out. They are too high for him to pull himself out. He is doomed on his own.

Brothers and sisters, this is Adam, who was given a mission by God. But enticed by the devil, he abandoned his mission and his God, and threw humankind into the pit of sin.
Now imagine another man finding the pit with Adam inside. The man climbs down into the pit himself. Now the trapped man can climb onto his shoulders, reach the edge of the pit and escapes.

The second man is Christ. He came among us and freely took upon himself our sufferings, restoring our friendship with God and giving us a fresh chance to fulfil our mission.
The betrayal of Judas, the abandonment of his apostles, the false accusations, the condemnation, the scourging and crowning with thorns, the torture of crucifixion – all these were attempts to get Jesus to say NO to the will of his Father, just as the devil had gotten the first Adam to say no. But, Jesus defeated the devil and this is the victory we are celebrating today.