PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION, HOLY WEEK
Is 50: 4-7; Ps 22:8-9,17-20,23-24; Phil 2: 6-11; Lk 22:14 – 23:56
THE JESUS OF PALM SUNDAY
Palm Sunday is one of the most bittersweet moments in the Church’s calendar, because on this day we commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem when all the crowds accompanying him sang a psalm of praise, waved branches and appeared to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem as king. After years of not recognizing who he was, of misunderstanding and conflict, it feels as though the crowds suddenly understood. Perhaps seeing Jesus riding on a donkey, they remembered prophecies like those of Prophet Zechariah: “Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey” (9:9). They recalled that Solomon had ridden to his coronation on a donkey (1 Kgs 1:33). Whatever it was, the crowd finally seemed to understand who Jesus was and what he had come to do – and celebrated. Of course, we know – as Jesus did himself – that this was not the happy ending that one look forward to after such a welcome. Almost the moment that Jesus set foot in Jerusalem, the crowd turned and melted away. Only a week later they were shouting for his crucifixion and death.
One of the things that strikes me every year on Palm Sunday is how Jesus acts through all of this. We know that he knew his death was imminent because he told the disciples about it on more than one occasion. He must have seen the crowd’s celebration and known how quickly they would change. A strong sense of foreboding hangs over this whole event; a sense that the worst is still to come. And yet, through it all, Jesus persevered. Quietly, authentically, generously, he went about his business as he always did: teaching the disciples; responding with love to people like the woman who anointed him with oil; holding his own against those who sought to trip him up with difficult questions.
By doing so, he suggests to us how we might seek to live in hard times. The answer is, one step at a time; not letting the anxieties and stresses that lie all around us knock us off course; being who we are called to be, quietly, authentically and generously. It may help to remember that even Jesus became overwhelmed with grief in the garden of Gethsemane just before his arrest. We are not called to be unfeeling machines, but we see in Jesus through all of this – especially during his trial when the accusations flying around became more and more desperate – someone who listened more than he spoke, someone who never stopped being truly who he was. This is the Jesus of Palm Sunday, the Jesus of Holy Week. This Jesus stands with us through all of this, knowing our pain, giving us comfort and loving us through it all.
Response: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
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