I. Introduction: A Royal Entrance
A. We have just celebrated the entry of Jesus in Jerusalem. He arrives on a donkey to the acclaim of many people. And while a donkey strikes us as a humble animal, Jesus makes an important claim by entering Jerusalem on a donkey as yet unridden. It is a signal that he enters not merely as a private citizen or merely as a teacher; rather, he enters the Holy City as King and Messiah. Jesus comes to Jerusalem accompanied by a large crowd of people who heard him teach and witnessed his miracles of healing. They have come to believe and hope in him as the fulfillment of God’s promises. With palms branches and cloaks spread before him, they acclaim: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’
B. Aware as we are of the kingly nature of the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we may now ask ourselves: “Isn’t this grand entrance out of character for Jesus who is ‘meek and humble of heart?’” Is it possible that the Lord taking a victory lap to celebrate his miracles? Was he trying to drum up support from the crowd to avoid his own execution? In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us be very clear what Jesus was doing. In entering as a king, Jesus was not claiming the prerogatives of an earthly ruler. Neither was he celebrating the triumphs of his miracles, nor still less his popularity.
C. No, St. Paul describes the true nature of Jesus’ kingship and exaltation: Jesus emptied himself, took the form of a slave, was obedient to the point of death, and gave himself totally for our salvation and that of the whole world. Jesus came to Jerusalem knowing that he would give himself totally for you and me and that in the end God’s mercy would triumph: God’s love would prove stronger than sin and more powerful than death. This is the sovereign power that Jesus would display as events of his Passion unfolded.
II. The Procession Before the Procession
A. We might also think it strange that Jesus would arrive in Jerusalem to such acclaim yet, only a short time later, he would derided as a criminal. Sometimes we shake our heads over the fickleness of the crowd – cheering one day, jeering the next. Probably, though, it was two different crowds. The people who cheered Jesus as he entered Jerusalem were not from Jerusalem. They were Jesus’ followers who accompanied him as he went up to Jerusalem. Once Jesus was inside Jerusalem, it was a different story. There he would meet up with a different crowd, people filled indifference, fear, opposition, and condemnation.
B. As a result, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem was soon followed by another long and very painful procession, a procession that led to Mount Calvary where he would lay down his life for the forgiveness of sins. Let us call this procession ‘the Way of the Cross’ – a path we ourselves followed in the proclamation of the Lord’s Passion and Death. To a casual passerby, the way of the Cross looked like the death march of an ordinary criminal … but in reality this was truly royal procession in which God the Father freely gave us his only Son who laid down his life for us and poured out the Spirit of his love and mercy upon us and upon the world.
III. A Moment of Decision
A. This Palm Sunday liturgy, at the outset of Holy Week, demands of us a decision. Which crowd will be a part of? Will we be numbered among the many disciples who came with Jesus to Jerusalem? Or will we numbered among those who shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”? Will we be among those who seek to open our hearts daily to Christ, allowing his teaching to permeate our minds and hearts, seeking the healing power of his mercy, and extending that mercy to others? Or will we be among those who treat Christ and his utter gift of self with casual indifference, neglect, even hostility – and in the bargain cast a blind eye on the physical and spiritual suffering all around us?
B. In our daily lives, we encounter both crowds and both would bid us join them. The invitation to join the indifferent and hostile crowd is often subtle. It takes the form of social pressure not to be too explicit about our faith and to abandon the practice of the faith for other pursuits. Yet all around us there is every encouragement for you and me to be a part of that company of disciples, the saints, who fearlessly and joyfully proclaim “the Name that is above every other name.” Where are we going in life? Where do we really stand? At Mass we sing our Hosannas like the disciples of old and immediately enter into the mystery of the Lord’s sacrifice: “This is my Body given for you! This, my Blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins!” Do we approach the mystery of faith with deep reverence? Do allow it to transform our lives from sin to grace and from grace to glory? Or do we treat the Mass as routine, in a take-it-or-leave it fashion? Every Mass, from the grandest to the most humble celebration, calls for a decision. Where are we going? Where do we stand?
A. Holy Week is a time for holiness, a time to be renewed in our faith. Let me invite you to take part in the great events of our salvation. Come to the Chrism Mass tomorrow evening here at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen as your priests renew their commitment and the holy oils used the Church’s sacraments are blessed. Be with the Lord on Holy Thursday as he institutes the Eucharist, the Mass, by which we share in the power of the Cross over sin and are nourished by the Lord’s own Body and Blood. Help Jesus carry the Cross on Good Friday all the way to Calvary where he lay down his life out of love for you, for me, for the world. And watch and pray at the tomb as the crucified Lord rises in glory, the Victor over sin and death, truly our Messiah and our King. Then let us welcome Jesus daily into our hearts and our homes, saying as did the people of old, ‘Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
B. God bless you and keep you always in his love.