Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Fri, 03 Apr 20 Lectio Divina - Year A

 

Is 50:4-7

Phil 2 : 6-11

Mt 26:14-27:66,27:11-54

The story, which begins of Palm Sunday, is basically a human drama; it is our drama. As Jesus enters into his final week, he takes humanity with him and continues to do so every Easter. We are not just remembering a historical event that happened over two thousand years ago. We celebrating and taking part in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as it happens today to us and for us.

His entry into the city begins on a huge wave of optimism, joy and hope. The people line the streets; they wave palms, they put their cloaks and garments on the ground and they shout out his name. This was an ancient Roman tradition used to welcome soldiers and armies home after their success in battle. The crowd similarly welcomes Jesus as they shout out, Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Yet, how quickly the crowd changed and turned on Jesus. The same people who were happy to welcome him with shouts of joy will soon begin to shout 'Crucify him, Crucify him.' Jesus is even betrayed and denied by his closest friends. The rest of them run and desert him. He is left alone.

There is a real danger that we can get up and lost in getting the liturgy of Palm Sunday and indeed the whole of Holy week just right. If we are not careful we can lose sight of what we remembering, celebrating and taking part in. As well as celebrating this great week with dignity and reverence, we also need to ask ourselves what it is all about and what it means to each to us.

Where am I in the unfolding drama that begins on Palm Sunday and plays out over Holy Week and which climaxes on Easter? Where am I as Jesus passes by on the donkey? Am I one of the crowds shouting out his name? Am I like Judas in any way? When have I betrayed others or Jesus? When like Peter, have I denied knowing Jesus? Am I like Pilate when I judge and condemn others? How am I like Simon or Veronica who helps Jesus in his time of need? Having stood with the crowd shouting out his name and welcoming Jesus, will I stand with the same people spitting out insults as I shout 'Crucify him! Crucify him!'

As we celebrate Palm Sunday and begin our journey through Holy Week, we are called to ask ourselves who and where we are in the crowd. This is a week to pray and then decide what kind of followers of Christ we are and are going to be.

During this busy week of prayer, liturgies and ceremonies, let us not lose sight of what we are remembering, celebrating and taking part in. As we begin this holiest of weeks, may Jesus be our constant companion.

In our readings today, we are taken through the events of the next eight days.  It begins with Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  The glory at the end of the eight days alludes to St. Paul's letter to the Philippians.  The readings are so powerful in what they say about Who Jesus is and what He came to do.  It reminds us of His mission and His dedication to announcing the News of God's love for us.

 

The First Gospel (Mt 21: 1-11) is the description of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  Matthew, as always, is keen to show the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures in the life of Jesus.  Jesus prepares to enter The City – Jerusalem ("the place of peace"), the place where God has chosen to dwell and makes the divine presence known.  It is this city that welcomes Jesus.  The crowds cry out with joy and praise as Jesus enters.  They praise Jesus as the descendant of David who comes in the name of the Lord.  The people are ecstatic that Jesus is coming to The City for the feast of Passover.  They have yearned for His arrival but were afraid that He would not come because of the tension between Jesus and the religious leaders.  The individuals in the crowd cut down branches from trees and wave them as Jesus passes by.  They put their cloaks on the pathway just as today we roll out the red carpet for stars.  "Hosanna!  Hosanna!" they scream as they welcome Jesus into The City – the very place where He will experience His hour of Glory in His death – and resurrection.

 

The tone switches as we hear one of the "Suffering Servant Songs" of Isaiah.  Isaiah speaks to the exiles in Babylon.  He tells of one who will suffer for the sake of the people.  Scholars are not sure if, in Isaiah's mind, the "suffering servant" was an individual or the people of Israel as a whole who experience persecution during their time in exile.

 The Christian Church has seen the prefigurement of Jesus in this passage from Isaiah. The lines of Isaiah are paralleled in the suffering of Jesus:  "God has given me a well-trained tongue to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me . . . my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord is my help."  How true these words will be for Jesus later this week as He continues His preaching to the weary and then as He willingly faces scourging, belittlement, and death.  Yet, through it, all Jesus calls on His Abba-Father as the source of His strength.

 

In the passage from his, letter to the Philippians, St. Paul uses an early Christian profession of faith in Who Jesus is.  He inspires his readers to put on the mind of Jesus the Christ – the One Who was willing to let go of His equality with God, to humble Himself to share in our humanity.  Moreover, humbling Himself, Jesus went all the way to death – and the worst death of all – death on the cross.  Yet, in being faithful to doing the will of His Abba, Jesus is glorified and given the name above all other names:  Jesus is the Lord.  He is one with Abba and worthy of praise as God the Son.  This reminds us of the essence of the paschal mysteries we celebrate this week:  Jesus' coming among us, suffering and dying on the cross, and being glorified by God, His Abba.

 

The Gospel relates the events of this week, from Judas' making a pack with the religious leaders to hand over Jesus to the Last Supper, to the agony in the garden, to the fake trial, to the passion:  Jesus' condemnation, scourging, crowning with thorns, crucifixion, death, and burial.  We need to read the passion story repeatedly this week.  We should take time to realize all that Jesus did to bring the Good News to us.  The four gospels share only a glimpse of the full suffering and pain that Jesus experienced.  Similarly, in the resurrection accounts, we will be given only a small idea of the magnificence of the glorified Risen Lord. 

A key line in the Gospel is the words of the Roman soldiers after the death of Jesus:  "Truly, this was the Son of God!"  This should be our profession of faith this week – and always.  Let us proclaim it by living as the daughters and sons of God, the sisters and brothers of the Lord Jesus.  Let us live lives that show we accept the salvation and redemption for which Jesus poured out His blood.  Let us be transformed through the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus so others will know that we believe that Jesus truly is the Son of God, our Savior.