• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord(A)

"Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."

Entrance Antiphon: Mt 21:9 —“Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel. Hosanna in the highest.”

Gospel: Mt 21:1-11 — “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

First Reading: Is 50:4-7 — “My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24 — “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?”

Second Reading: Phil 2:6-11 — “Christ humbled Himself. Because of this God greatly exalted Him.”

Verse before the Gospel: Phil 2:8-9 — “Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.”

Gospel: Mt 26:14—27:66 — “The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Communion Antiphon: Mt 26:42 — “Father, if this chalice cannot pass without My drinking it, Your will be done.”

The day began in triumph, with crowds of people waving palms amid joyful shouts. His entrance into Jerusalem caused quite a stir as ordinary people greeted Jesus like a long-awaited king. But popularity with the crowd is often a fickle thing.

Soon after that triumphant entrance, the minds of the crowd turned to other matters. The officials however; who hoped to keep the peace and avoid trouble, did not forget Jesus.

Those in charge feared that Jesus would cause them trouble, and sometimes we probably fear that Jesus will cause us trouble, too. Consider some of the key players of Gospel we just heard.

  • For a moment, Judas found money and success and popularity with the “big shots” more important than Jesus ... and so often, we too want money or power more than we want to follow Jesus.

  • Peter and James and John let a big meal lull them into being inattentive to what they knew they should do in the garden of Gethsemane ... and so often, we let our comfortable complacency keep us from noticing the needs of our family, our friends, and our neighbors.

  • The people who praised Jesus on Palm Sunday went astray later in the week because they did not think for themselves, and so often we let others tell us what is right and what is wrong without thinking things through.

  • Out of fear that they might lose their power, some of the religious leaders sought a scapegoat for their own shortcomings, and so often fear can make us lash out at those whom we do not understand or who are unlike us.

  • Pilate went along with a scheme to condemn an innocent man when he saw that it was going to be too much trouble to try to set things right, and so often we go along with what we know is wrong to avoid trouble for ourselves.

  • The Roman soldiers, who knew nothing about Jesus or why he had ended up their prisoner, let their compliance with the evils of the status quo lead them to blame the victim and hit him while he was down instead of helping him as best they could ... how often do we do the same?

  • Mary Magdalene sat at the tomb as it got dark ... with her feelings of uncertainty ... sitting alone in fear or in anger ... refusing to accept what has happened. How often are we like Mary ... sitting in darkness ... refusing to listen to the voice of God in our lives or reacting negatively when God’s will doesn’t match up with ours? Are there instances when we needed to let go and trust in God and didn’t?

If we can somewhat understand the actions of Pilate, Mary Magdalene, the soldiers, the crowd, their leaders, Judas and the apostles … maybe it’s because we have done the sorts of things that they did … and the real surprise comes from what Jesus did to show us God’s love.

  • God continues to love us, even when we put other things, such as money, success or popularity ahead of our response to that love.

  • God continues to love us, even when we let our comfortable complacency keep us from noticing the needs of those around us.

  • God continues to love us, even when we let others keep us from thinking for ourselves and let them lead us away from doing what is right.

  • God continues to love us, even when we let our fears cause us to see a human being as something other than a child of God and our brother or our sister. Jesus took our sins upon Himself so that we need not make scapegoats of anyone.

  • God continues to love us, even when we fail to resist evil.

  • God continues to love us, even when we do evil things because we let ourselves become the unwitting foot soldiers of forces seeking power or control or wealth ... something other than the good of all.

The Jewish Passover was initially a celebration of liberation for one people and because of Jesus Christ became a liberating reality open to all people, with bread and wine and a new covenant given to remind us of God’s love. Christ’s Passion teaches us not about our sins ... our failings ... or our mistakes ... because they are things that are all too familiar to us. The most important reality is that Christ’s Passion teaches us about God’s love for us ... a love that is bigger than our sins ... a love that makes up for our failings and corrects our mistakes. Christ’s Passion teaches us that God’s love always shines brightest when we are most in the dark.

We know that we are always in need, and through faith we know that Christ is around the Table of the Altar ... a reality no less than He was there for His disciples when He once reclined around a table in the house to celebrate the Passover … something that we celebrate each and every Holy Thursday, including this one. Once again it is good to remember that we are fed, and we are continually strengthened by God’s unfailing love.

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