Posted by Father Ato

Palm Sunday (Cycle C)

Readings: Is 50: 4-7; Phil 2, 6-11; Lk 22: 14- 23, 56.

The celebration of Palm Sunday as the start of Holy Week, is presented to us liturgically in two parts: the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (staged in its festive and messianic character), and the story of the Passion; in fact, the Liturgy of this Sunday sets the stage in ritual celebration for these two distinct but not separate moments.

In the commemoration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem the liturgy proposes to us the reading of a passage from the Gospel of Luke (cf. Lk 19, 28-40). The text is full of messianic connotations, such as the indirect reference to the prophet Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion, shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king comes to you: just and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey “(Zech 9.9). The Gospels of Matthew and John make a direct reference to this messianic Old Testament passage; Mark and Luke allude it indirectly. The prophet Zechariah speaks of a messianic king whose reign is characterized by peace and justice. The acclamations of the people, “Blessed is he who comes as king, in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest “(Lk 19: 38) confirm the Messianic significance of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem; likewise, there is a reference to Psalm 117: “The Lord gives salvation, He gives victory. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! (Ps 117: 25-26)”.

The Palm Sunday celebration therefore begins with an explosion of joy, in which we are invited to join the voices of the people acclaiming the Lord, who recognize him as their Messiah Savior. The festive character of the simple, humble and triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem stands out; on the other hand, in a second moment (with the readings of the Mass) that celebration of joy seems to be cut off sharply with the story of the Passion of our Lord (cf. Lk 22, 14- 23, 56), a story that comes preceded by a reading from the third song of the Servant of the Lord (Cf. Is 50, 4-7), which prefigures the Passion of Christ, and also a reading from Philippians (cf., Phil 2: 6-11) which focuses on the humility of Jesus, who as the “suffering Servant” accepted death on the cross and was exalted at the right hand of the Father.

The first reading from the Book of Isaiah (Cf. Is 50, 4-7), presents the figure of the “suffering servant”. In the light of the story of the Passion we can identify that “Suffering Servant” as the “suffering Messiah”. Jesus is the “suffering Messiah” who carries all our sins.

In the second reading (Cf. Phil 2: 6-11) Paul presents this double aspect of the life of Jesus: abasement-glorification. “Christ, despite his divine status, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself and took on the form of a servant …” (Phil 2: 6), i.e., of a “suffering servant”, to undergo death on a Cross. He came to glory through the humiliating death on the cross.

The long story of the Passion (cf. Lk 22, 14- 23, 56) summarizes key aspects of the Triduum. It is a text to meditate carefully, day by day, throughout this Holy Week. The story of the Passion and Death of the Lord will be re-read on Good Friday in the version of the Evangelist John (cf. Jn 18, 1 to 19, 42). With the story of the resurrection (cf. Jn 20: 1-9), to be read on Easter Sunday, the third element of the Triduum is completed.

The Church teaches us that Jesus has redeemed us from sin through his death on the cross, and by resurrecting he has opened for us the hope of the resurrection. We must, however, point out that Jesus did not seek death itself. What he sought was total fidelity to the Father, fulfilling his mission. Death appears not as the will of the Eternal Father for His Son to ‘pay’ for our sins. God could not want a humiliating death for his Son. The Father allowed His Son’s death because of our sins. It was not the Father who brought Jesus to the gibbet of the cross; it was men who reject the love of God and the saving offering of his Son, who put Jesus to death on the cross. Obviously this is not an exclusive responsibility of the contemporaries of Jesus, but of all mankind. Jesus’ death reveals the sin of humanity, our actual sins, for we all, in one way or another, reject Jesus and His offer of grace. Jesus faced death, he accepted it, and he assumed it, as a consequence of his radical fidelity to the Father.

God also cannot want the suffering of men. He is not someone who remains outside the realm of human suffering but, on the contrary, He, through His Son Jesus Christ has borne our sufferings. He has become one of us in pain. He has identified with the suffering, the marginalized, and the excluded from society. The Passion of Jesus also reminds us of the extent of human cruelty, torture, contempt for life. Jesus identifies himself with those who are victims of violence. The Lord of life is brought to death on a cross. Jesus can fully understand the suffering of the innocent, for He, the only just one, has experienced firsthand the supreme injustice of men. The passion, on the other hand, reminds us of the extent of the love of God: there is no greater love than to give one´s life for his brethren (cf. Jn 15, 13). Jesus, as the Apostle Paul shows us, loved us and gave himself for us sinners (cf. Rm 5: 8). He gave his life also for those who led him to the cross.

Death has no meaning in itself except that it reminds us of the hope of the resurrection. Jesus, with his death and resurrection, has transformed the meaning of our death. For the Christian, death is no longer a sign of condemnation for our sins or of the meaningless of life, or the tragic expression of human destiny, but a co-dying with Christ to rise with Him. The Eucharist is appropriation for us of the merits of Christ earned by his atoning death on the Cross.

Christ has not asked his followers to seek suffering and death; he asks us to be faithful to Him. We have no need to seek suffering and the cross; we just encounter it every day. Discipleship involves carrying the cross, accepting it as a result of our faithfulness to the Lord. Jesus, on the other hand, never leaves us alone with our Cross.

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