(Editor’s note: Father Stephen Page, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish, Coralville, gave the following homily on Passion Sunday, also known as Palm Sunday, March 29, 2015.)
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the vernal, or spring, equinox began Friday, March 20 at 5.45 p.m. Central Standard Time. And with the official beginning of spring, there will be soon the spring tornadoes and storms.
Storms come to everyone. There are the usual storms that move in and soon depart. Then there are storms of such magnitude that you feel as if all will be lost and there is nothing much that can be done, except wait it out.
In the fury and the drama of the Passion account two individuals stand out in this storm that might not usually get much attention: the poor nameless woman with the costly perfume and Pilate, at the other end of the social spectrum.
• The woman “wasted: something costly and rare by breaking the jar and pouring it all over Jesus. While others sat in shock or grumbled about a better use, Jesus gives praise. She offers, if you will, a short respite before the storm hits home.
In the very short course of our earthly existence, who has blessed you or me recently? I’m sure we’ve all experienced being cursed or sworn at, either earned or not. But who among us has “anointed” others: spouse, children, co-workers, supervisor, friends or church member with love, or kindness or good deeds?
As we enter into this most sacred season of our Catholic faith … ponder, reflect, confess. Which have we chosen with the anointing of our words and actions?
• And Pilate, dear Pontius Pilate. A brief reading of Roman history tells that Pilate was a political climber. His only earthly ambition was to make “THE” name and claim for himself. Politically backing the wrong horse, where does he wind up? In the turbulent back water of the Empire with a bunch of contentious, religious zealots.
Here, as the Gospel implies, Pilate listened to gossip. He didn’t want to know the truth or, if he did, he was swayed by gossip. Let’s face it: Pilate isn’t the only one in the story of human life. Isn’t gossip delicious? Tangy? Enticing? Gossip is one way to passively exert power and control, right? Isn’t it easy to fall into a pattern of repeating stuff that is only half true or just plain rumor? Stuff that can cause some real damage? We can always justify it by saying: “others need to know about this.”
Bottom line: our tongues have the power to ruin a person’s character and wound their spirits — if not condemn someone to some type of death. So unlike Pilate, perhaps we could all practices some “C T N:”
• Call yourself to accountability, before the tongue puts forth verbal toads, vipers and sewage.
• Think, ponder, reflect and question, before words leave our mouths. Aren’t Christians called to build up the body of Christ? Isn’t gossip a form of character assassination or verbal terrorism?
• NEVER say something about someone you won’t say to their face. Ask them or give them the benefit of the doubt or the chance to explain. Or simply hit our personal mute button.
Where do Facebook, instant message, the mobile phone and email come into play? And whether we are young or old isn’t gossip a horrid form of bullying?
When the devastating storms of life slam into our lives it is challenging and emotional and difficult to maintain a view of the bigger picture. Both of these two individuals heard about Jesus. So we ask:
Who will you and I be, today, tomorrow, after Easter Sunday? The “anointer or the one who condemns because of the cancer of gossip? Something to ponder as we enter Holy Week this Passion Sunday.