Homily preached by the Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool, at Palm Sunday Mass. Livestreamed from the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool on Sunday 6 April 2020 at 11am.
Watch the Mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool
At this time in the life of the Church and of our world, as we are threatened most severely by the coronavirus and we cannot celebrate our liturgy in full, my thoughts have turned to the medieval antiphon ‘Media Vita’ which translates as ‘In the midst of Life we are in death’. This was sung at various times of the year according to the local and particular traditions, but it could have been specially written for this time.
Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem reflects this sentiment very well. He approaches Jerusalem as a hero to be praised and raised up. He is Jesus the Prophet from Nazareth of Galilee. But this will not last. And there is something about our lives too that will not last. We are thrown back on what really matters, we are pared back to essentials. What does it take for us to live fruitfully? Not praise and glorification, the celebrity culture; not unnecessary possessions and entertainment for its own sake; but kindness and truth and selflessness. And during this lockdown we are discovering so much about life – community, friendship and perhaps even the need for prayer and the importance of it in our daily lives.
On Thursday I joined the crowds in my street to applaud the care and health workers – truly this was a time for Hosannas and cheers. It was a time for humour in typical Liverpool fashion: God was walking in Liverpool city centre and was stopped by a policeman and asked what he was doing. God replied, 'I am staying at home.' In applauding all the good people who are caring for us and supporting us in our need, we are waving palms to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, and thanking God for the gift of his Son.
Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem to meet a certain death is something for every one of us to engage in this week as we deepen our understanding of the passion, the suffering that he endures unto death. And this is so relevant to us because this is a journey that every one of us will make at the end of our lives. All round us the death of so many friends, mothers, care workers, doctors, bus drivers and people we know by name and whom we love makes this all the sharper.
The passion from St Matthew’s Gospel can help us even more, not simply by saying that it will be all right in the end, but because it is actually fine now. The crucifixion and death of Jesus is accompanied by amazing signs – the rocks split the tombs open and the dead walk free. It is a chain reaction that begins with Jesus' own resurrection. Although Jesus’ resurrection is spelt out with appearances, the way we are encouraged to see death in this gospel is as the beginning of new life The liturgical preface for the dead says life is changed, not ended.
For every Christian, life and death go side by side. Death is never very far away in our prayer and interior life of prayer. So we may walk with our Saviour this week in the sure and certain hope that if we die with him then we will live with him.