Homily for Palm/Passion Sunday

Readings: Is. 50.4-7; Ps. 22; Phil. 2.6-11; Lk. 22.14-23.56

Passion. For many people, the word passion has taken on a narrow and negative connotation. Many times, the word is reduced to referring to simply the sexual drive. About ten years ago, some marketing consulters interviewed a group of administrators from Niagara University about what kind of students we were seeking. Some administrators replied: students with a certain range of SAT scores, or students with proven academic achievement, dedicated athletes, proven leaders and service-oriented students. I replied, "students with passion." The whole group stopped talking and stared at me as though I had three heads. Everybody shook their heads in disagreement. Someone burst out loud laughing, "imagine a billboard claiming: 'NU seeks students with passion'."

Then and now, I'd like to restore a broad and positive connotation to the word. Etymologically the word passion comes from the Latin verb patior, patiri. It means to suffer, to endure, to experience. It connotes deep and strong emotions, forceful feelings. We need passion to achieve anything worthwhile. To be a successful athlete requires a lot of passion. To be a high achieving student requires a lot of passion. To be a good souse and parent, or single person or celibate, to be a good Christian and Catholic, to do anything worthwhile requires deep dedication, endurance through difficult moments, responding to challenges, recovering from mistakes which we humans inevitably make, and picking oneself up off the floor and starting again and again. Passion provides the basis for our believing in Jesus, the Church which he founded, believing in family, freedom and country; and for being compassionate towards people in need.

Jesus suffered his Passion. He endured sufferings to save us from our sins. Why? Because he deeply loves us, cares for us, sacrifices for us, teaches us even though much of what he says goes over our heads, and he died for us so that we might live eternally. The word passion has a broad and positive meaning. Jesus' passion exemplifies for us how we are to direct our passions. We need our passions to achieve anything worthwhile. We need our passions to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, and to give breadth and depth to our name of Christian.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley