Drawing first from Bible readings illustrating how Jesus embraced those who crucified him, the Rev. Robert Smith delivered a powerful Palm Sunday homily, using contemporary heroes to illustrate the power of courage, compassion and redemption.
Smith, the pastor of St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church in Huntington Station, talked about families that struggled with illness and addiction, about a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, and about Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated in 1980 after he spoke out against El Salvador’s oppressive government. It was a fitting choice for a parish with a large Spanish-speaking population, a community that has been transformed by newcomers from Central America and a nation deeply divided by immigration.
Romero had once believed there wasn’t much he could do to bridge the chasm between El Salvador’s rich and poor, Smith said. But then a friend, a Jesuit priest named Rutilio Grande, was brutally murdered after challenging his country’s oppressive government, Smith told the congregants, and Romero was inspired to struggle for social justice and economic equality.
“That blood has become a source of hope for many,” Smith said.
Palm Sunday begins Holy Week when Christians mark Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, leading up to his crucifixion and death on Good Friday, and his resurrection on Easter.
Gerard Dunn of Bay Shore, a longtime St. Hugh parishioner, said it is important to remember that Jesus, for all of his talk about turning the other cheek, wasn’t afraid to raise a ruckus.
“He walked into the temple and turned over the tables because he saw people were trying to make money and they were not paying attention to the real reason they were there,” Dunn said, referring to the story of how Jesus threw out the money changers from the temple.
“They forgot it was a house of God.”
Grace Williams of Huntington, a Farmingdale State student attending Mass with her father and grandmother, said Easter Week is a time she gets to spend with her family — and a time for reflection, too.
“Jesus forgave people, and that inspires me in my life,” she said. “When someone does something wrong to me, I think of how Jesus forgave people.”