Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Year B

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, more simply known to many as “Palm Sunday.”  We hear two gospels today.  We begin Mass with the blessing of palms and a gospel recalling Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem.

He receives a royal welcome, with “many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches” as they cried out “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” 

Do you give Jesus a royal welcome into your life?  Do you invite him into your heart everyday or do you hold him off to the side?

The second gospel is read at the normal point in Mass after the other readings.  It is the story of the suffering that Jesus went through for us

Jesus was arrested by the Jews and handed over to Pilate.  As the government official, Pilate thought he was in control.  “He knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed” Jesus over to him.  Yet, he allowed Jesus to be crucified, guilt by association.  Why did Pilate allow Jesus to be crucified?  Because he wished “to satisfy the crowd.

Lest you think it was the Jews who were in control, we must remember who Jesus is.  He “was in the form of God and did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself.”  He willingly left his place in Heaven seated at the right hand of the Father to come to save us.  He humbled himself, submitting himself not to the Jews but obedient to the Father.  His obedience, his suffering saves us from our sins.

Pilate was not in control.  The Jews were not in control.  Jesus knew all that would happen.  He sent his disciples to get the colt and it happened as He said it would. 

Jesus fulfills what we hear in today’s reading from Isaiah as the suffering servant.    He speaks “to the weary a word that will rouse them.”  He knew that God his Father was with him and would raise him up.

They would mock him.  Our psalm today prophesizes how Jesus would be mocked, “He relied on the LORD: let him deliver him, let him rescue him, if he loves him.”  Jesus’ opponents would say that his Crucifixion would prove that He was not the Messiah because they (incorrectly) thought the Messiah would be victorious in earthly terms. 

Here I think back to the first reading at daily Mass this Wednesday.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were told they would be thrown into the fire if they did not worship the (false) god of King Nebuchadnezzar.  They replied, “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us!  But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that you set up.”  They trusted in God, whatever He did.  Do you?

Jesus’ Passion fulfilled the prophecies that said his hands and feet would be pierced and his garments divided.  God always had a plan.  God knew what had to be for us to be saved.

Jesus knew the plan.  He knew how He would enter Jerusalem for the final time.  He knew how He would celebrate the Passover at the Last Supper.  He knew Judas would betray him and that Peter would deny him three times.

Knowing this, Jesus could have left his disciples before they betrayed and denied him.  He did not.  Instead, before his arrest He gave those who would betray him the same gift He gives us at the altar today, the Eucharist.  It is the greatest gift.  It is the Body and Blood of Jesus.  It is the sacrifice of Jesus’ life offered on the Cross for us.  It is food for our soul.

Jesus knows what it is like to suffer.  On the Cross, He cried out, “My god, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Why?  Why did God our Father allow Jesus to suffer in this way?  To save us.

When Jesus was arrested, the faith of his disciples was shaken and they scattered.  Do you run away from your faith or to it when you suffer?

Peter said his faith would not be shaken even if he had to die.  Yet, he did hide and deny Jesus three times.  Yet, in the end Peter too would be martyred for his faith.

After Jesus died on the Cross, it was a centurion, not a Jews, who said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”  Yet not all the Jews rejected Jesus.  It was “Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, who saw that Jesus had a proper burial.  He believed in Jesus and honored him even in death.  We do well to honor our loved ones in our funeral customs today

Today begins Holy Week.  There is so much to think about in what we celebrate this week.  I encourage to spend some time thinking about what the events in Jesus’ life this week mean for us.  In doing so, you honor Jesus’ words to his disciples, “Remain here and keep watch with me.”  I encourage you to come to Mass on Holy Thursday and to “keep watch for one hour” afterwards.  Come on Good Friday and again recall what Jesus did for us.  Come on Easter and hear the news that Jesus Christ is Risen.

Let “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Leave a Comment