Homily – Palm Sunday in the Time of Pandemic – 2020

Dear Friends, once again, we are separated and we must wrap our hearts and minds around the notion that in order to keep each other safe, we must not be together! We begin tomorrow the holiest week of our Church Year–may it be a good one for you as we all continue to be “church” in new ways.  Who might you reach out to this week from the safety of your home? By telephone–email–snail mail…What group either in our local community, our country, or, our world might you share your bounty with? All of this friends, is being church.  During this time of pandemic when we can’t receive the Eucharistic bread, we are instead called to be “bread” to others in our world.  I invite your prayers for all those who have died around this good earth and for their families who grieve them as a result of this terrible virus. Please pray too for all healthcare workers that they can remain safe. Pray for leadership in our country that all that must be done to combat this enemy will be. And finally, let us pray for each other–that we will all stay safe and grow in the ways that God may be calling us,  in this time of crisis.

Peace and love to all–Pastor Kathy

Hopefully, you have the readings that I included with the mailing from this past week.  Also, after the homily, which follows next, you will find the Prayers of the Faithful and other responses for your use.


My friends, as we begin Holy Week, just a few thoughts. Let’s reflect a bit on the emotional side of what this day, Palm Sunday brings us.  We could spend time describing the significance of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and of how he did everything as the prophets foretold, but when all is said and done, it is really all about love—love first for the God who sent him and then love for those who awaited a Messiah.  He, of course was a different manifestation from what the people thought they needed and wanted, a King to conquer the Romans—instead of a humble man of character and a servant—this was who they needed and only later would they discover, it was who they wanted as well.

In this strange time as our world is trying to live with and conquer a silent and unseen virus that is ravaging our planet as a whole and our own country in a most significant way—we are called to be “church” in new and significant ways, different than before, but “church” just the same.

We may feel ill-equipped for this “new normal,” looking to others to lead us out of this crisis, but as Clarissa Pinkola Estes of Women Who Run with the Wolves fame has said so well, “We are exactly the leaders that we have been waiting for—we were made for these times!”

We each must do what we can.  I read this morning that Oprah Winfrey has given $10,000,000 to organizations in our country to feed those in need. Leonardo DiCaprio, among others, has joined her.  Here in Winona, many are working to keep fed and housed 8 homeless folks who are sheltering-in-place at a local motel.  And our city will need to do more as this crisis continues. Others are financially supporting these efforts through donations to Catholic Charities and the Winona Community Foundation.  Yes, we must be the leaders in absence of others.

Paul, in his beautiful treatise on Jesus to the Philippians says it simply, “His state was divine, yet he did not cling to it…but became as all people are.”  Jesus in his image as slave and servant showed us the way to go—not as this world sees greatness, but as God does. That is perhaps part of it, my friends, trying to see into the problems that others face that are not our own.  Each of us must respond to the grace of our baptisms, to the strength of the Spirit that lives within us due to our confirmations in the faith.

We saw these images, especially of “servant” throughout Lent in the form of the Good Shepherd, the Samaritan woman at the well to whom Jesus gave, ‘living water,” the man—born blind,  to whom Jesus gave much more than physical sight.  Each of us is called today to continue Jesus’ work through our hands, our eyes and our hearts.

This week will zero in on three very significant days—the Triduum—remembering first, on Holy Thursday—the institution of the Eucharist and the formal institution of the priesthood—ideally intended to be a calling to service.  Within this first day’s service Jesus demonstrates what being a servant means when he washes the feet of his apostles—not about him—but about others.  In this time of a “new normal,” we are being asked, perhaps, to humble ourselves, to “wash feet” in a new way.

The “feet washing” in a new way came to me in a very poignant story Thursday evening on the PBS Evening News.  The story shared was that of a black, woman doctor in New York.   I name the ethnicity of this doctor and her gender because both are at the heart of this story.  Amna Nawaz, interviewed this black, woman doctor as a human interest story of someone on the frontlines and what this crisis is calling forth from her.

This female doctor made it very clear that those in this country who are poor, black and brown and already compromised because of their poverty with heart disease, diabetes and the stigma of race which is built into the fabric of our society, are unfortunately put at greater risk in this pandemic.

This is something my friends, that we as a country must wrap our hearts and minds around—we can ignore it no longer!  My hope is that one good that might come from this terrible pandemic in our country would be that we, as a nation, could come to terms with the deep inequality that there is between the rich and the poor and finally, finally, do something about it!  And racism—our original sin, as someone has said of it, must be addressed as well.

Amna Nawaz finished her interview with this brave, black, woman doctor by asking her how this pandemic is affecting her own family.  This woman, in her personal life is married, has two small children and is worried, literally, about what her work could do to her family.  She said that she had a frank discussion with her husband telling him that she might not come through this and if that should happen; he must be sure to tell their children that their mother always loved them!

Good Friday, then, we must remember, is about the height and length and depth of our God’s love for us.  To be about love—to wear it as a breastplate as Christians means that as Jesus did, love is always the response to what we as humans can come up with by way of injustice, even if we must stand alone.  Jesus would not compromise this principle and he knew what the consequences were for that stance, much like the doctor who cannot leave her patients, knowing what it could do to her family.

The Easter Vigil concludes the Triduum as we remember and reflect on our salvation history—a story that delineates God’s over-the-top love for us—always directing the prophets of Old and New to keep us as a people on-track until the message of love could be given to us in perfect form—in the person of Jesus.

This, my friends is a wonderful week that we are beginning—one not to be taken lightly, one not to miss.  Let our prayer for each other be, that our God’s over-the-top loving for us, then, be something that we can give back as we respond to our world. And in that, we can all sing the Easter alleluias! Amen? Amen!

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Loving, Ever-Living God, you have given the human race Jesus Christ, our Savior, as a model of humility.  He fulfilled your desire by becoming human, giving his entire life as a servant, out of love, even to accepting the death of the cross.  Help us to bear witness to you by following his example of total giving and make us worthy to share in his resurrection.  We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name, in our loving Creator and with the Spirit, one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

Let Us Pray

Prayer after Communion

Jesus, you have satisfied our hunger with this Eucharistic food.  May your life, death, and resurrection give us hope and perseverance in this life and one day bring us home to you.  We ask this in your loving name, Amen.

Again we remember that our call during this time is that WE MUST BE THE BREAD!

Prayers of the Faithful

Response:   “Merciful God, hear us.”


  1. Loving Jesus, as we conclude our journey through the holy season of Lent, in this time of a “new normal,” be with us, teach us to live lives of loving service and never be afraid to choose justice for all as the way to go, especially during this time of pandemic, we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear us.”

 2.  Loving God, help us to love the poor, the downtrodden, the present-day lepers

in our midst and to see them through your loving eyes, we pray—

Response:  “Merciful God, hear us.”

  1. Loving Jesus, as we remember your sufferings this week, help us to hold them

in perspective with your resurrection, we pray—

Response:  “Merciful God, hear us.”

  1. Loving God, be with our nation’s leaders enabling them to speak the truth that is so needed during these times, we pray,

Response:  “Merciful God, hear us.”

 5.  O God, help us strive to be people of peace, not war—let our tools be justice, love,  mercy, gentleness, and understanding, we pray—

Response: “Merciful God, hear us.”

  1. For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming, open hearts that can

invite any and all people to be part of us, always taking our lead from Jesus

who prayed that all would be one, we pray—

Response: “Merciful God, hear us.”

  1. Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this

week,—especially all the families who have lost due to Covid 19, give them

your peace, and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—

Response: “Merciful God, hear us.”

***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, we pray, then response

***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause—

we pray, then response 

Let Us Pray 

Loving God, be with us each and every day—we thank you for the blessings of this Lent.  Teach us to be true servant leaders in our world—give us courage, strength and patience, but most of all, give us love—the force strong enough that allowed you to make the wonderful choices that you made so long ago for all of us.  Teach us to graciously love those who we find most hard to love—help us to realize that each person, ourselves included, is greatly loved by you.  Be with all those suffering so terribly now due to the corona virus, those who have died and their families who are left behind. Be with all the brave and dedicated health care workers on the front lines working for all of us.  Assist our national leaders to lead our people well—let them not allow any of what they do to be about themselves, but only the good of our nation.  We ask this of you who are our Creator, Savior and the Spirit of the Living God—with us now and loving us forever and ever, Amen.