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Homily on the Passion from the Dumb Ox

St. Thomas Aquinas’s major works of theology remain widely read and discussed, but his homilies and academic sermons are neglected. Here’s a homily he delivered on Palm Sunday on the subject of the Passion. The homily displays St. Thomas’ clarity, thoroughness, and closeness to Scripture.

HOMILY XII
the Lord’s work and ours

And they crucified Him.”- Matthew 27:35.

We ought to consider three things concerning the Passion of the Lord—firstly, its nature; secondly, its power; thirdly, its benefit.

I. On the first head it is to he noted, that the Passion of Christ was very bitter for three reasons—(1) On account of the goodness of Him suffering. (2) On account of the indignity of His Passion. (3) On account of the cruelty of those carrying out the sentence. The goodness of Him suffering is manifest from three circumstances—Firstly, because He harmed no one: 1 Peter 2:22, “Who did no sin.” Secondly, because He most patiently sustained the injuries laid upon Him: 1 Peter 2:23, “Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again;” Jer. 11:19, “I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter.” Thirdly, He was doing good to all: Acts 10:38, “Who went about doing good;” John 10:32, “Many good works have I shewed you from My Father.” The indignity of His Death is manifest from three things—Firstly, he was judged, which was the most wicked of all: Luke 23:21, “But they cried, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him.” Secondly, because of the many indignities which He suffered: Matthew 27:27–30, “Gathered unto Him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand … And they spit upon Him.” Thirdly, because He was condemned to a most shameful death: Wisd. 2:20, “Let us condemn Him to a most shameful death.” The cruelty of those who crucified Him is seen from three things—Firstly, very cruelly flagellated Him before death: Matthew 27:26, “When he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.” Secondly, in giving Him at the point of death vinegar and hyssop to drink: John 19:29, “They filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth;” Ps. 69, “In My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” Thirdly, in wounding Him even after death: John 19:34, “One of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side.”

II. On the second head it is to be noted, that the power of His Passion appeared in three things—(1) In heaven; it took away the light from it, Luke 23:44, 45, “There was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened.” (2) In earth, for it trembled, Matthew 27:51, “The earth did quake and the rocks rent.” (3) In Hades, who delivered up its dead, Matthew 27:52, “Many bodies of the Saints which slept arose.” The heavens declare the power of the Passion of Christ; the earth proclaims it; Hades announced it. Phil. 2:8, 9, “Obedient unto death.… That at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.”

III. On the third head it is to be noted, that the benefit of the Passion extended to inhabitants of heaven, earth, and hell. By the Passion of Christ the heavenly ones were recruited; earthly men were liberated from the hand of the Devil; and the holy fathers who were in Hades, were delivered from that place. Of the first, Coloss. 1:20, “To reconcile all things unto Himself by Him, whether things in earth or things in heaven.” Of the second, John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the princes of this world be cast out;” Coloss. 2:15, “Having spoiled principalities and powers.” Of the third, Zech. 9:11, “I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.”

Three Readings for Palm Sunday

Jesus’ Death is part of the mystery of God’s unfolding plan. The Salvation the Lord offers us isn’t always realized in the situations of this life; sometimes our deliverance from the forces that oppose and oppress us occurs in the Resurrection. Nonetheless, this prayer helps us to find meaning in our suffering, to have confidence in our trials, and to re-affirm our faith when things don’t go our way by remembering that God is in ultimate control. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we end by asking that we not be led into temptation and that we be delivered from evil. The temptation we most want to avoid is that of believing that God has abandoned us, God hates us, or that God doesn’t care about us. When we pray to be delivered from evil, we are not praying to be preserved from it (that is unrealistic in a world infected by sin) but that we will not be overcome by it; that means we pray for perseverance, deliverance, vindication, and salvation from the evil situations we endure.

Come Follow Me: Discipleship Reflections on the Sunday Gospel Readings for Liturgical Year

What a heady beginning to the Passover festivities this day seemed to be for the apostles. It started out with this unexpected triumphant moment, when all their secret ambitions of glory and fame seemed to be coming true. Jesus rode into Jerusalem amidst the acclamation and praise of the people, the crowds going wild. Though the apostles had listened to the teaching of the Master about humility and the last place, the roots of ambitious excitement die hard. In fact, just listening to Jesus’ teaching wasn’t enough. Their ambitions would only die with his own death, when they would be hiding together in a dark closet somewhere, hoping to escape with their lives… In the journey we fall and are forgiven, fall again and are forgiven again. In the journey we discover that the cross does not have the last word, and never will. We are not people of the cross, but people of the resurrection!

Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections

What God would not permit His Scriptures to pass over in silence, we too may not pass over in silence. And you shall listen to it. Our Lord’s passion, as we know, happened but once; Christ died once, the just for the unjust. And we know, we possess it as certain and hold with unshakable faith, that Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, and death shall no more have dominion over Him. These are the Apostle’s words. Yet, for fear we should forget what occurred but once, it is re-enacted every year for us to remember. Does Christ die as often as the celebration of Easter comes round? No; the yearly remembrance brings before our eyes, in a way, what once happened long ago and stirs in us the same emotions as if we beheld our Lord hanging upon the cross; not in mockery, of course, but as believers. For as He hung on the tree He was mocked; seated in heaven He is worshiped. Or rather, is He not still being mocked, though now our anger is not directed against the Jews, who at any rate derided Him as He was dying, not when He was reigning? And who is there that even today derides Christ? Would there were but one, would there were but two, would they could be numbered! All the chaff of His own threshing floor mocks Him, and the wheat groans to witness its Lord insulted. I would groan over it with you; indeed, it is the season for mourning. We are celebrating our Lord’s passion; it is the season for sighing and weeping, the season for making confession and supplication. Yet who among us is capable of shedding tears in proportion to such immense sorrow?

St. Augustine on the Psalms, Vol. 1
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