Bishop Paul Swarbrick: Palm Sunday Homily 2021


Over the past year, a great change has taken place over the face of the earth, and in the lives of us all. The infamous virus has done what it is in the nature of viruses to do, looking for ways and opportunities to spread and flourish. Within just a few months, it had changed the face of the earth. Habits, plans and hopes, work routines and priorities, families and relationships have all fallen victim. And it is not done yet. Note how it adjusts and adapts in order to keep us guessing. From such a small beginning, even though we don’t like it, we must congratulate it for its remarkable achievement, its dedication and efficiency.

Today marks the start of Holy Week. With His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, humble and riding on a donkey, sets about His greatest work; the defeat of all evil. The Light has come, and the darkness cannot overpower it. These words are a comfort to us, even if we continue to fear the darkness. The darkness will not last.

The Holy Week Liturgies are full of words, long Gospels, extra prayers. Beneath the words are the actions of Christ, what He has done. Holy Week, our Faith, is first and foremost about what has been done. Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem (He turned up), the Last Supper and Institution of the Eucharist (He got down to it), His glorious Passion, Death and Resurrection from the dead (He completed it), these are deeds done to overcome the power of sin. The Liturgies of Holy Week draw us into those saving acts of our Saviour, allowing the Gospel to spread.

You’ll have your plans for the week, what you expect to happen, what you hope to do. You’ll know how spanners can drop into the works; adjustments must be made. If, for whatever reason, you are not able to attend the Holy Week Liturgies, then do please make a conscious effort to remember that they are happening, even if you are occupied with other things. Much is possible through the internet and the mysteries of going online, although it has its limitations (-no collections is one that springs to mind, another is going off to make a brew during the homily!).

I began by talking of the remarkable spread of the virus. Christianity is not a virus and does not spread in the same way, but note how it has spread from such a small beginning. Salvation is from God. It is the desire of the Father that we know Him and share the fulness of His life. With His entry into the Holy City, Jesus has set about changing not only the world, not just our lives either, but changing sin and changing our deaths. Choose to let the Gospel find you, affect you, use you, and reward you.