Palm Sunday, The Passion of the Lord
“With face set like flint,” this Sunday’s first reading tells us (Isaiah 50:7), Jesus approaches the moment of his Passion in Jerusalem.
Knowing what resides in the heart of every man, he knows that their praises today are fickle and will fade, and these same men will turn against him in short time. Still, these accolades are not hollow. Jesus himself explains, “If they kept silent, the stones would cry out.” For he also knows the ultimate destiny for himself and for all mankind, “Every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:11). By participating in the Mass, this is what we do.
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” On hearing these words, the Pharisees at last begin to ask the right question: “Who is this king of glory?” (Psalm 24:10). Unfortunately, the next line in the Psalm escapes them, “The LORD of Hosts, He is the king of glory!” There are some who will never recognize the King for who he is when he comes. Many will only see what they want to see: Not the fulfillment of our plans and our desires? Not our Messiah.
For this reason, Christ warns his disciples, “Watch and pray, lest you too be put to the test.”
Fast forward to Good Friday
The most ironic interchange in the Gospels takes place between Pilate and Jesus. Pilate asks, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus responds, “You say so.”
Ironically, in Palm Sunday’s reading of the Passion (Luke 21:14-23:56), Pilate is the only one who suggests that Jesus might be a king. The ones who pronounced him king during his triumphal entry, less than a week earlier, either abandoned him or are crying out to have him crucified. Today the people of God participate more actively in the reading of the Gospel, because we not only represent those people, we are those people. Yet unlike Pilate, we do not wash our hands of this crime. And if we repent and are forgiven, we will participate with Christ the King in his true glory.
“My God! Why have you abandoned me?” The greatest of theological paradoxes.
Though we participate in a special way in Palm Sunday’s liturgy by taking an active part in the Gospel reading, Jesus Christ must bear the weight of the world’s sin on his own. You and I can only accept our part in this, namely, that we have left him with the debt of paying for our sins. This week is the week to relive this paradox through the liturgy.
The Holy Week and Triduum liturgies are of the most sacred moments in our liturgical year. Accompany Christ each day this week, do not abandon him, and on Easter Sunday arise with him in his triumphal glory.