As we gather together this weekend we have come to our annual celebration of our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem his own city at the beginning of Holy Week more commonly known as Palm Sunday. The entrance into Jerusalem is one of the very few events in Jesus’ life which is mentioned in all four gospels. It is the only time that Jesus accepts and encourages public acclaim as Messiah. He even goes as far as organising his entrance by telling the disciples to go and fetch the donkey. The key moment in God’s great plan of salvation is about to unfold and Jesus knows exactly how it will unfold.
As we reflect upon the story of Jesus coming to Jerusalem we recommit ourselves to Christ and his message of salvation.The events of Palm Sunday were foretold thousands of years ago. The first reading from Isaiah, one of the four Suffering Servant oracles written at the time of the Babylonian captivity, speaks of a courageous and obedient messiah-figure, who says,
“I have set my face like flint” against the beatings and scourging that lie ahead, “knowing that I shall not be put to shame.” The second reading from Philippians reminds us of Jesus’ total emptying out of His divinity in order that He might identify Himself with the lowest criminal being led to His execution, “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” We move towards the heavenly Jerusalem only because Christ himself has already made that journey to the Cross for us and now he offers to make it with us.
The full drama of the Gospel begins with the crowd’s fickle acclamation of Jesus as King at the beginning of the reading. It is a foreshadowing of the blasphemous mockery the soldiers will hurl at our thorn-crowned Savior a few days later on Good Friday. And yet, we raise our voices joyfully with the crowd, linking the honor given Him, especially by the children, with His ultimate victory beyond the grave. We wonder and rejoice as the veil is raised to permit a glimpse of Jesus, the Messiah-King and liberator.
The Church is a master of drama in the liturgies of this week. Through the use of lay readers for the Passion and the voices of the congregation, we all become part of the action. On Palm Sunday we feel embarrassed to cry out “Crucify Him” with the palm branches still in our hands. It reminds us of our own fickle response and our lack of courage in responding to His love and truth. Yet we know that it was the sins of us all which brought Jesus to Calvary. Palm Sunday and Holy Week are all about Jesus suffering for our inadequacies and our own very real sins. Holy Week is a time for us to realize what we’re really like, and to find that the only remedy for our pains and our fears is love. That is Love of God and love of others . Are we ready to join our own pains and fears to the Master’s? Are we ready to add as much love as we can possibly muster to His boundless love? As we recall the Passion story on Palm Sunday and then more solemnly on Good Friday we are called as witnesses to respond and to imitate his life. And as God’s family, we are called to look out for one another. It’s not just about “me.”It’s about “us.” Our journey is a journey of self-emptying in love too so let us not be afraid to set out on our Journey through the week that we are beginning with Palm Sunday so that we will be able to celebrate the bright light of the resurrection at Easter.