20 Mar Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday March 20, 2016
Father Stéphane Pouliot
Holy Week has begun. This beginning can be puzzling to many of us. After all, we began Palm Sunday with the Gospel of Jesus entering into Jerusalem, and by the first reading, we have already plunged into the mystery of the Lord’s Passion and Death on the Cross. The complete name of today’s feast is fuller than full: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. Why covering so much of Holy Week on the first day? The answer is simple: the Church wants to give us an overview of all of Holy Week on the Sunday which launches it, to incite us to spend more time on smaller portions of the mystery of our redemption as the week unfolds. Let us lift the veil over the drama of this Week of all weeks with the Gospel we heard at the beginning of today’s Mass.
“Then they brought the colt to Jesus; and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road (Luke 19:35-36).”
The celebration of Palm Sunday invites us to be like the colt, the young donkey, which we encountered in the Gospel proclaimed at the beginning of the Mass today. We are to welcome Jesus and carry Him to others. Our reverence for Him will encourage others to follow suit:
“… the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully and with a loud voice… ‘I tell you, (Jesus said) if these were silent, the stones would shout out’ (Luke 19:37,40).”
Throughout this Palm Sunday Mass, we are called not to remain silent as Jesus passes in our midst, but to praise Him joyfully with a loud voice. By recalling briefly what we have heard from the Word of God today, we will now anticipate our upcoming journey from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. As the prophet Isaiah told us earlier: “The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. (Isaiah 50:4)”
Let us recall that the hearts of the Apostles were weary on the night of the Last Supper, and that Christ’s words on that day would indeed sustain their hearts and ours, since those Holy Ancient Words would powerfully give us the Real Presence of Christ at every Mass.
On Holy Thursday, the night he washed their feet, he told them:
“I am among you as one who serves (Luke 22:27).”
The lover always serves the beloved, and since God is love, God serves us, incredibly, unconditionally, and generously. For us sinners, God lets us know that He is mercifully there for us, that we are not orphans, that we have not been forsaken, that we have not been forgotten. We are so loved and Christ told his Apostles the night He would be arrested and surrendered to His enemies:
“You are those who have stood by me in my trials… (Luke 22:28)”
On Holy Thursday, Jesus encourages us before we even show heroic courage that every past action of ours which has been a choice for Him has not been forgotten. Jesus is incredibly grateful for our friendship offered at a time when He is rejected by so many. He tells the first Pope on that ominous night:
“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like what, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (Luke 22:31-32)”.
We are Simon. Jesus promises us to pray for us throughout this Holy Week as we choose to spend time with Him, setting aside any unnecessary commitments for Him who spared nothing to save us. He stands by us, and offers us His strength. He invites us to look out for every man, woman and child who are being tormented by doubt, violence, and fear.
We are to reach out and come to their help taking our cues from our Master teacher who on Good Friday:
“…humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).
This humiliation of our Saviour leads him to descend into the hellish realm of death on Holy Saturday:
“…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).”
At the conclusion of this Holy Week, we shall see, hear, and feel the Glory of God who helps us (Isaiah 50:7) in our hour of greatest need, who will not give up on us, and who triumphs over the nightmare of sin, death and hell, clearing the fog of despair and discouragement, restoring our hope and promising us that death cannot keep us, rather that we will rise from the dead if we stay with Him. Since Palm Sunday acts like a compelling movie trailer encouraging us to go and be part of the experience which it introduces us to, shall we let the Church lead us this Holy Week to Jesus who can change our lives?