Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for Palm Sunday 2021: Follow Jesus on the Days of Joy, as well as on the Days of Sorrow

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Father Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, March 28, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My dearly beloved Sons,

After Lent, the time of spiritual preparation, to which was added a part of penance, after our entry last Sunday into the time of Passion, we are now beginning with Palm Sunday the Holy Week.

This week is called holy, for the events we commemorate are holy: the institution of the Eucharist and of the sacrament of Holy Orders, the death and resurrection of Our Lord. This week is holy, for these events, holy in themselves, are also sanctifying for those who accept to follow Christ.

Following Christ… Today’s liturgy wouldn’t seem to invite us to do so. Yet, who wouldn’t give their lives to follow behind the foal of a donkey bearing Jesus towards the Mount of Olives? Who wouldn’t associate with the crowd, cutting down branches from the trees, strewing their garments in the way, or again, going ahead of Jesus, or following Him and shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

It would be so simple to follow Christ, if He had only accepted to remain on this little donkey, and allowed others to honor Him as king of the earth.

But the road did not stop there, as the Passion narrative has reminded us. Have we not already forsaken Christ? Have we not let Him continue alone on His road?

As they saw the crowd honoring Jesus, the city of Jerusalem was seized by a great turmoil. Many were saying, “Who is this man?” On the evening of Maundy Thursday, Peter will say, “I do not know the man.” Following Jesus, or forsaking Jesus? Proclaiming His name, or disavowing Him? Where were they on the cruel Friday, those who had given Him a standing ovation when He had entered Jerusalem? Where were they? Where would we have been?

Following Jesus on the days of joy, as well as on the days of sorrow, following Jesus in the peace of a pacified heart, or in the storm of passions, following Jesus in elation of the soul, or in the humdrum everyday routine. Such is our program. Following Jesus in truth means making our own with Him, and on behalf of God, the name above every name, the name of Christian.

Christ’s Cross is offered to us on these days, and so is our own cross. Let us follow Christ, Who carried His Cross so that we might be able, day after day, to carry our own cross: the cross due to circumstances, the cross of our weaknesses, the cross of our sins. God is faithful. If He allows the cross to be planted on the paths of our lives, it is because we have already been given the grace to overcome it. For those who love Jesus, there is no Good Friday without an Easter dawn.

On the threshold of this Holy Week, let us not just remain with the Palm Sunday crowds. Let us march forward in Christ’s footsteps, let us die with Him, so as to rise with Him.