“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
I. We live in a world absolutely transparent.
God’s presence fills everything, saturates everything, shines through everything. The problem is, we don’t see it. We’ve all known people who could stand in front of the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls and be completely oblivious to its beauty. In a similar way, we can stand face to face with God but never have eyes open enough to notice. We have to learn how to see.
Palm Sunday is a day about the heart.
II. Our procession this morning, our prayers, and our gospel reading take us back to that day when Christ rode into Jerusalem.
It’s hard to imagine the intensity. On a normal day, some 30 to 50 thousand people lived in the city. At Passover, that number swelled to nearly 150 thousand. The streets and gate were overflowing with crowds from all over the Middle East. The noise and excitement must have been incredible when Jesus Christ came riding in. Everyone had heard of Him. Thousands poured through the city gates to worship. They covered the street with branches and robes, shouting: “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he that cometh!” But there were other voices too. Some were indifferent and came to see what all the fuss was about. Others were skeptical and others still met Jesus Christ with fierce hate. There was nothing calm about Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. It stirred the pot. The good, the bad and the ugly in the human psyche woke up.
III. This was a historical event, but it’s also a spirituality reality.
Jesus Christ is the King who enters into the city of our heart.
What will He find? Will the doors be open? Will there be room for him to stay? Will He be welcomed with worship and love or by skepticism and hate?
I said just now that it’s hard to imagine the scene on that first Palm Sunday. But I lied. You can bring yourself right there with a simple experiment.
When you go home, light a candle in front of an icon, sit down, invite Jesus into your heart and stay perfectly still for 5 minutes. Just listen. There were only 150,000 voices in Jerusalem. How many voices will you hear in your heart? What will they say? Some will adore Jesus Christ. Others will doubt Him. Others still will hate. The human heart is infinitely complicated. If you succeed to worship Him how long will you keep worshiping Him? For 10 seconds, for 20, or even for a minute, before your affections quickly run off to the grocery list, the finances, or the next series in your favorite soap opera?
St. Nicholas Velimirovich once described the heart in a Palm Sunday homily.
“The multitudes of people, crowded and pushing one against another, joyfully awaiting and greeting Christ, symbolize the noble sentiments and exalted thoughts of a person who joyfully greets God, his Savior and Deliverer. The leaders of the crowd of people, who hate Christ and want to kill Him, personify the lower desires and earthbound thoughts, which take the upper hand over man’s noble nature and oppress it. This lower human nature rebels against God’s entry into the soul, for when God is enthroned there, the lower nature will inevitably be destroyed.”
IV. As Christians, our whole life should be concerned with one thing: the purification of the heart.
The Proverbs say: “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart” (27:19).
Our anxieties, depression, anger and hurt all stem from the heart. Our ability to see God comes from the heart. Our ability to see a person for who she is, or our ability to see a tree, the sky, or anything comes from the state of our heart. We can spend our whole lives blaming our problems on external things. “If only I lived over there, or knew different people, or had a better job, if only…if only…” But in reality, it all starts and finishes in the heart.
That’s why the poorest person can be the happiest person, if he or she has a pure heart.
All of us need to quiet down and spend more time in the heart.
V. We forget this, but it’s the most beautiful and simple truth.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23)…My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways (Proverbs 23:26).”
St. John of Kronstadt used to teach his flock, “Watch your heart during all your life – examine it, listen to it, and see what prevents its union with the most blessed Lord…The heart is the eye of the human being. The purer it is, the quicker, farther, and clearer it can see.”
This is the purpose of Lent. This why we spend more time in prayer, fasting, and quiet through Holy Week.
VI. So, the Church brings us to Palm Sunday every year to remember.
Christ came to the gates of Jerusalem. He comes today to our hearts.
When He entered He purified the temple. If you let Him in He will purify your soul, and only then will you begin to see.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.