Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Matthew 26:14-27:66 or 27:11-54
Holy Week in my house has always been a time of great reflection and solemnity. While we do look forward to Easter Sunday’s treats, we take time to focus on journey and the sacrifice that was made for us. My brother and I were always reminded of where our thoughts should be; whether it was handing palms out on Sunday, praying the rosary every night of Holy Week, or marching down the middle of our town with our church as we reflected on the Passion through the Stations of the Cross on Friday. Even though I have grown up and moved on, these are still traditions I continue to carry with me. Through these traditions, I can begin to see the amazing love that was given to us by Christ on the cross. Through the time we have taken during Lent and throughout this week, we can experience the love given to us and though praise and worship of God we can begin to reciprocate that love. The journey to the cross does not begin on Friday but begins here on Palm Sunday.
As Christ rides into Jerusalem, many people greet him, laying out their cloaks and palms and shouting "Hosanna!" We mirror these early believers by taking palm branches this Sunday and holding them up in procession in honor of this moment. Yet most of these people would abandon Him a few days later in his hour of great need. As we look forward to the Triduum we turn our eyes towards the Passion. Today’s readings show us the Passion not just from one but four vantage points. We begin with Palm Sunday and the entrance into Jerusalem. While everyone around him greeted him with great joy and exultation, He knew what was to come, willfully allowing the prophecies to come true:
Say to daughter Zion,
"Behold, your king comes to you,
meek and riding on an ass,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden." Zech 9:9
Have we prepared throughout Lent to accompany Christ on his journey to the cross or will we be fair-weathered and depart when the storm comes?
The psalm foreshadows what is to come, Christ’s pain and suffering on Good Friday. It is so painfully accute yet beautifully written. The response "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me" is something we experience at different points in our lives. We have felt that God is no where near these terrible situations that we are in and may turn our backs on him. Christ says the same in St. Matthew’s recount of the Passion:
And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
"Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?"which means,
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mt 27:46
Since he was fully human, he felt the need to call out to his father in his most painful moment, reminding us of his pain and suffering. He’s allowed himself to be emptied for us. At the end of this psalm, the writer continues to have faith God will deliver him and he continues to praise his name. In difficult times, times of great need, do we continue to see God will deliver us or do we turn away? Do we continue to praise Him?
In the second reading, St. Paul takes us into the future, giving a beautiful and succinct post-resurrection synopsis of our Salvation History. Even though it is only a few verses, it is a very thorough account of the cornerstone of our faith: while it reminds that Christ emptied himself for us, it also tells us how to move forward.
Every knee shall bow…every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
How are we living out this calling to profess the glory of God? In the midst of this solemn time are we still passing on the Good Word of God’s great love?
One thing has become very clear during my short time working with the Passionists: their love for Christ and love for their mission of spreading that love to others though the passion of the cross. While we must realize this is a solemn time, and the readings will continue to lead us to the cross, we must also rejoice in the love given to us, a love so true and mighty he gave of himself so we might live. We must take the time now to reflect on what is to come in the next week so we may accompany Christ on the road to Calvary. While we are getting ready for Easter happenings, dinner, egg hunts, parties, let us also take the time to walk with Christ. He walked this road for us, so our sins would be taken from us, so that we might live. Even through those hard times when we may be abandoned by everyone and denied by those we love, God is there to lift us up with his amazing love. As he always walks with us, so too must we walk with him. Let us take time this week to pray and reflect upon the sacrifice He has given for us.
Kim Garcia is on the staff at Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center, Houston, Texas.