Passion (Palm) Sunday 2022
April 10, 2022
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen
During the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy’s motorcade passed through my hometown, New Albany, Indiana. I happened to be standing at the corner of Charleston Road and Indiana Avenue when a lineup of black Lincolns and Cadillacs whizzed past me. In the backseat of one of the cars was Senator Kennedy himself. As a child of nine, I was over-awed and ran home to tell Mom what I had just seen. Mom then asked me what I was doing on that street corner when I should have been home, doing my schoolwork … there was no good answer.
My childhood awe was but a faint image of the joy and amazement which the crowds experienced as Jesus entered Jerusalem, astride a donkey. They greeted him as crowds might greet an emperor or a king – with shouts of victory, with palms, with cloaks laid at Jesus’ feet. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they shouted. Some days later, however, the scene changed dramatically. Jesus was condemned and scourged. Brought before the crowds, they no longer shouted, ‘Hosanna!’ but ‘crucify!’ The title, ‘King of the Jews’ was no longer an honor but a curse. The triumphal entry into Jerusalem gave way to the trudge up Calvary Hill.
Both Captured in the Liturgy
The liturgy of Palm Sunday captures both extremes. The blessing of palms and the procession into the Cathedral commemorated the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, replete with palms and songs of victory. The reading of the Passion brought us face to face with the price of our redemption, as Jesus is betrayed, arrested, unfairly convicted, scourged, and crucified. In both events, we play our part: waving palm branches on the one hand, and shouting ‘crucify him!’ on the other. Doesn’t this liturgy whipsaw between triumph and tragedy?
It surely seems to, that is, until we look more deeply at what the Lord intended as he entered Jerusalem in triumph. What was he doing? Taking a victory lap? Seeking the adulation of the crowd? Sending a signal to the authorities that he was capable of overthrowing them? The answer is … ‘none of the above!’
Set in One Direction
Jesus came to Jerusalem because he intended to die out of love for us. He entered as a sovereign, as the Sovereign, the Lord of History. The procession into Jerusalem was truly royal, truly sovereign because Jesus entered the City conscious that his hour had come, the hour when he would freely lay down his life to redeem the world. His kingship did not depend on the adulation of the crowds, nor did it rely on the trappings of royalty and power. At the heart of this event was Jesus himself, ‘the Son of Man with nowhere to lay his head’. He was and is our Priest and King, not because of we can do for him but rather what he would do for us.
As we participate in these liturgically re-enacted events, let us keep one thought, indeed one fact, close to our minds and hearts, and it’s this: “He loved me and gave his life for me!” Indeed, the liturgies of Holy Week not only proclaim this greatest of truths, but also disclose and bring into the present Jesus’ sacrifice of love. By entering into this liturgy and all the liturgies of Holy Week, we welcome into our midst and into our hearts the Eternal Son of God, who emptied himself, who became one of us, so that he could lay down his life to redeem us of our sins. There is no greater love, hence no greater Name. And there is no better week than Holy Week for this reality to hit home in our hearts.
Invitation to Participate in Holy Week Liturgies
With a heart full of gratitude for the Lord’s immense love, I invite all of you here present and those watching electronically, to take part in the liturgies of Holy Week: The Chrism Mass; Holy Thursday; Good Friday; and the Easter Vigil. Rejoice tomorrow evening as the Holy Oils are blessed and as your priests renew the promises of their ordination. Sit at table with the Apostles as the Lord institutes the Most Blessed Eucharist, the gift that encapsulates his presence and his sacrifice of love for us. Stand beneath the Cross, with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Beloved Disciple, as Jesus pours out his life for the salvation of the world, as the Blood of the Eucharist and the waters of Baptism pour from his wounded side. Keep watch with the soldiers at the entrance of the tomb as the Lord emerges victorious over sin and death, a victory he shares with those to be baptized and received into the Church, a victory he renews in those of us already baptized.
Then, when Easter morning dawns, we can bask in the light of the Resurrection, deeply grateful that the Lord loves us and gave his life for us! May God bless us and keep us always in his love!