A Procession Leading to Redemption!
There is an interesting story about the donkey that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday. This donkey thought that the procession was organized to honor him. He may have thought that he is a unique and special animal. One day, he asked his mother if he could walk down the same street alone and be honored again? But his mother said to him, “No you cannot, you are nothing without Him who was riding you.” Five days later, the donkey saw a huge crowd of people on the street. It was Good Friday, and the soldiers were taking Jesus to Calvary. He could not resist the temptation of another royal reception. Ignoring the warning of his mother, he ran to the street to be part of the reception. But soon he realized, and he had to flee for his life as soldiers chased him and people stoned him. Thus, the donkey finally learned that he was only a poor donkey without Jesus’ riding on him. This story reminds us to ask ourselves, as we are entering the Holy Week, if we are people who really carry Jesus or people who just carry his name only.
The Church celebrates the Sixth Sunday of Lent as Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday. On Palm Sunday, we enter Holy Week by welcoming Jesus into our lives and asking Him to allow us a share in His suffering, death, and Resurrection. This is the time of the year when we remember and relive the events which brought about our redemption and salvation. The Holy Week liturgies present us with the actual events of the dying and rising of Jesus. These liturgies enable us to experience in our lives here and now what Jesus went through. In other words, what we commemorate and relive during this week is not just Jesus’ dying and rising alone, but our own life of dying and rising in Him, which results in our healing, reconciliation, and redemption. Just as Jesus did, we, too, must lay down our lives freely by actively participating in the Holy Week liturgies.
Today’s liturgy combines two moments seen in contrast; one of glory, the other of suffering. The welcome given to Jesus into Jerusalem ending with the drama of His trial, condemnation, crucifixion, and death. The first reading (Isaiah 50:4-7) from Isaiah’s fourth Servant Song foreshadows Jesus’ own life and mission. The refrain for today’s responsorial Psalm says (Ps 22),” My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?” The Second Reading (Philippians 2: 6-11) from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is an ancient Christian hymn representing a very early Christian understanding of who Jesus is and how his mission saves us from sin and death. The first part of today’s Gospel (Mark 15:1-39) describes the royal reception Jesus received from his admirers, who paraded with him for a distance of two miles, from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem, reminding the ceremonial procession of Solomon on the day of his coronation using the royal donkey of his father king David. In the second part of the Gospel, we listen to the reading of the Passion of Christ according to Mark. Nearly 25,000 lambs were sacrificed during the feast of the “Pass Over,” but the lamb which was to be sacrificed by the High Priest was taken to the Temple in a procession four days before the main feast day. On Palm Sunday, Jesus, the true Paschal Lamb, was also taken to the Temple in a large procession.
Holy Week begins with a procession leading to the redemption of humanity. It challenges us to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the Passion story, like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Herod who ridiculed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience, and the religious leaders who tried to save their positions by crucifying Jesus. Palm Sunday is a time to rejoice as Jesus comes to us, as well a time to weep and mourn for our own sins. We need to reflect on some questions such as: Are we willing to follow Jesus in our daily life? Are we willing to entrust ourselves to Him even when the future is frightening or confusing, knowing that God has a plan? Are we willing to serve Him until the day when His plan is fulfilled? Palm Sunday makes us weep and sing the song, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed Him to a tree?” Yes, we were there in the crowd that day, and even today, we are there, singing “Hosanna!” but later shouting, “Crucify Him!” by our acts and attitudes of injustice and cruelty towards humanity and Jesus Himself. May God bless us all!
Joke of the Week!
Little Johnny was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from church with his mother. His father returned from church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked, “Why do you have that palm branch, Dad?” His father explained, “You see, when Jesus came into town, everyone waved palm branches to honor Him; so, we got palm branches today.” “Aw, shucks,” grumbled Little Johnny. “The one Sunday I can’t go to church, and Jesus shows up!”
Fr. Tomy Joseph Puliyanampattayil, MSFS (Fr. Tomy J. Puliyan, MSFS)