Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Matt 21: 1-11
Is. 50:4-7; Ps. 22: 8-9, 17-20, 23-24; Phil. 2: 6-11; Matt 26: 14-27:66
The scriptures for Palm Sunday provide a condensed overture to the solemn events of Holy Week. As a prelude to the Eucharistic Liturgy, the Presider blesses the palms before proclaiming the Gospel depicting Jesus’ royal entrance into Jerusalem, at which the crowds cry out “Hosanna…. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The Presider’s greeting before the procession with palms includes these lines:
Today we gather together to herald with the whole Church the beginning of the celebration of our Lord’s Paschal Mystery, that is to say, of his Passion and Resurrection.
For it was to accomplish this mystery that he entered his own city of Jerusalem.
That last line is crucial, because it signifies Jesus’ own free will and agency in what is about to take place. Last week, we saw him raise Lazarus from the dead. The religious authorities had long been on the alert to eliminate the threat that they perceived Jesus to be. Jesus’ raising of Lazarus was the last straw. Jesus’ disciples were fearful about him going to Jerusalem; Jesus was determined.
What is it that Jesus was determined to do? He was determined to remain faithful to his mission of inaugurating the reign of God. He had been doing it through his preaching, teaching, healing, and miracles of every kind. He had been doing it through his manner of relating to people, especially the poor and those most marginalized. He had been doing it by breaking bread with all manner of diverse and socially unacceptable people. He had been doing it through his very presence. Jesus did not choose persecution, torture, and the suffering of the cross, nor did his Father choose it for him. Sinful human beings chose it. We chose it, and sometimes we still do: We choose it when we act (or fail to act) out of fear—fear for our security, or fear of losing worldly power or status. What Jesus chose is poetically expressed in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself…he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
What does this mean for us today? St. Oscar Romero, Archbishop and Martyr, gives us a clue, and he sets a very high bar. He is a true icon of Jesus, and thus a model for us:
One who is committed to the poor must risk the same fate as the poor. And in El Salvador we know what the fate of the poor signifies: to disappear, to be tortured, to be captive, and to be found dead.
The poor exist in many guises: the hungry, the unsheltered, the immigrant, the refugee, the victims of climate change, including the earth itself, and all who are marginalized simply because they are “different.” Entering into solidarity with these “least ones” can make us vulnerable in mainstream society (including mainstream church). But that is exactly what it means to share in Jesus’ Passion, and that is what it takes to share in the fullness of the Resurrection. May our celebration of the Paschal Mystery in the coming week draw us into a deeper solidarity with and in Christ.
Sr. Kathleen McManus, OP