Almost 40 days ago we began our Lenten pilgrimage toward the great feast of Easter. We began with the dust and ash of Ash Wednesday, and we shall end with the living water and rebirth of Easter Sunday. This is a journey from death to life; from slavery to sin to true freedom in the perpetual light and beatitude—blessedness—of the heavenly kingdom. In walking this way we have followed the example of the Israelite people, who travelled for forty years through the desert from slavery to the Egyptians in a foreign land, to liberation in the Promised Land. Our journey does not take us from physical place to physical place, but it does bring us out from exile to the true Promised Land—our native land; the kingdom of heaven.
This homily was given at a Solemn Mass at the church of Saint Mary, Mother of God, in Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
After our pilgrimage of forty days through the desert of Lent, our own exodus from bondage to the Promised Land, the Christian Church arrives today at the gates of the city of Jerusalem. This is the place where first we join our voices with the children of the Hebrews and acclaim, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’, and yet also the way by which we enter into the mystery of the Lord’s saving acts: the institution of the Eucharist and the sacred priesthood, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary, and the great joy of his resurrection. In short, the coming days of the sacred triduum present us anew with the fullness of life in Christ, a life which is found in the communion of his holy Church.
It is fitting that Jerusalem is the location for these profound events. It is here that the first temple stood as a sign of the covenant between God and the people of Israel – a temple destroyed and yet rebuilt in Christ, who is the priest, the altar, and the lamb of sacrifice. It is here that the psalmist and prophets tell us that the Messiah will come to begin his work of restoring God’s people to their rightful place. And it is to here that Moses led the people of Israel to freedom from slavery in Egypt, as God vanquished and overcame their oppressors.