Our Thorny Crown

Homily to members of Sion Community and LiveStream Viewers on Palm Sunday of Lent, Year B.

“In truth this man was a son of God.”

Do we see before us an outlaw or a king?

Some would say there is no difference, for when an outlaw becomes a king he remakes the law in his own favour.

But Christ is the king of a higher law, the law of God’s kingdom – and the symbol of this kingdom is a crown of thorns.

From the very beginning, thorns have been a symbol of godlessness.

When Adam tasted the forbidden fruit, the ground was cursed such that he would toil to raise edible food among the new-grown thorns.

When the prophets looked for an image for the pagan nations, tempting Israel away from God’s law, Moses, Samuel and Jeremiah all likened them to thorns – and Joshua to thorns in our eyes.

When Jesus spoke of the sower with the good seed of the kingdom, some seed was choked among thorns, representing the cares and attractions of this world.

Now, the pagans, the Romans, have dressed Jesus as a phoney king and placed a crown of thorns upon his brow – perhaps scratching at his very eyes.

These thorns are my sins and transgressions. Each time I choose to turn from God’s Law, I add another barb to his crimson crown.

This king loves you enough to wear the crown. And he promises you a crown in return – a crown of beauty for the ashes of your repentance. Since Ash Wednesday, you have been seeking more intentionally to amend your life – but at some level you will have failed. Fear not! He offers you not a crown in reward for your success, but a crown earned by his victory, his choice to take every last sin of the human race and bear it to Golgotha.

You have been offered transfiguration but been subject to temptation. Jesus has been exalted that you may be purified. To bear the fruit God seeks, you must die to old ways – you must allow Christ to crucify everything within you which is not worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. To reign with him, you must share his crown of thorns.

Each Sunday of the year is a celebration of resurrection. This Sunday, uniquely, is a celebration of crucifixion. It is meant to leave us desolate, abandoned with the scattered friends of Jesus. Some preachers might choose to let silence speak at this moment in the Mass. But this year, we need some light in our darkness, some hope in our hardship. It is coming! The veil of the temple, the division between heaven and earth, has been parted. There is a way for our future glory to enter our present reality – can you hear it, the sound of heaven touching earth? – but this is the story for the week ahead.

Today is the Sunday of great contrasts. A crown, not of gold but of thorns. Hosanna! Crucify him! The king of the Jews, executed as a common criminal. The King is dead. Long live the King!