Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – 17
Is.50:4-7; Phil.2:6-11; Mtt.26:14—27:66
If we listen carefully to today’s sacred readings, and to the beautiful prayers of the Mass, we have there a review of our Catholic education and formation. We are reminded that, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds shouted “Hosanna”—which is Hebrew for “Grant your salvation!”
It is a form of exultant greeting and acclaim. Jesus enters Jerusalem just as Zechariah, in the Old Testament, had prophesied.
In the reading of the Passion, we are reminded that Jesus, humbling Himself out of love for us, did not shield his face from blows and spitting, but offered His life on the cross to atone for our sins.
And we are reminded that, as Jesus died on the Cross for us, he quoted from the 22nd Psalm: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” This quotation does not indicate despair, for Jesus knew the entire 22nd Psalm, which joyfully concludes.
In the reading, today from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, he reminds us how Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave . . ., humbling himself, [and] becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”.
We wear red today because it signals the blood of martyrs; and Jesus is the greatest martyr. He gave us His body and blood, not only on the cross, but also in the most holy Eucharist, which is really, truly, and substantially His body, blood, soul, and divinity.
Blood is life-giving; it is the essential element in sustaining us in life. Babies in the womb receive oxygen and nutrients from their mothers’ blood. When natural disasters occur the Red Cross appeals for blood donors. During surgeries, it sustains patients in life.
In many cultures the bonding of people is sealed in rituals that mingle blood. In all cultures blood has a deeply religious significance.
When God brought the Hebrew people out of their slavery in Egypt, the blood of sacrificed lambs marked their homes and they were spared the punishment that fell upon their Egyptian captors.
Later, on Mt. Sinai, when God bound Himself to His people, Moses offered animal sacrifices and then took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar.
Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”
Moses then took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Ex.24:6-8)
As we enter now into Holy Week, blood and the cup of suffering are the centerpiece of God’s saving and life-giving actions.
In the blood of Christ which flowed from His crucified body we are liberated from the ultimate consequences of our sins if we follow in the way of Peter and not in the way of Judas. God offers, we respond, and everything depends upon our response.
How will we respond to Him? Can we and will we accept God’s forgiveness? Judas did not. Peter at first could not but later he did. Pontius Pilate tried to wash his hands of it, denying responsibility.
The Jewish leaders accepted responsibility. “His death is upon us and upon our children,” they declared. Many people in Jerusalem at that time simply didn’t care; they couldn’t be bothered. What about us?
When we drink of the cup, the cup of suffering, we have our own opportunity to drink of God’s life-giving force that empowers us to face this world’s unfairness and injustices. The harsh truth is that millions of innocent people suffer.
The harsh truth is that Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, was innocent and unjustly suffered terrible rejection and pain. Instead of allowing himself to be imprisoned in resentment and hatred, he walked the path leading to redemption and resurrection.
What about us; do we enter into the passion and death of Christ? Or do we simply not care and not be bothered? God offers; what is your choice?
Are we willing to follow Jesus, not just to Church but in our daily life? Are we willing to entrust ourselves to Him even when the future is frightening or confusing, believing God has a plan? Are we willing to serve Him until that day when His plan on earth is fulfilled?
These are the questions of Palm Sunday. Let us take a fresh look at this familiar event. We might be surprised at what we see. It could change us forever. Amen.