Palm Sunday – April 10th, 2022
Lectionary readings: Is. 50:4-7, Ps. 22, Phil. 2:6-11, Lk. 22:14-56
Theme: Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
In our observance of Palm Sunday, Christians throughout the world fervently remember the events of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. This day inaugurates Holy Week, a time when we enter into the most solemn moments and mysteries of our Christian faith. As Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, it symbolized an arrival of peace, not as a king mounted on a horse marching into battle. The crowd with palm branches acclaimed Jesus as King shouting, “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mk.11:9)
Each of the four evangelists give an account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the gospel for today’s liturgy is from Luke with his focus on the Last Supper, his prayer on the Mt. of Olives, his arrest, betrayal and denial. These events are significant for Luke because his dominant image of Jesus is one of a prophet filled with the Spirit. Luke began his gospel with the inauguration of Jesus’ earthly ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth when he read from the prophet, Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” (4:18-19) For Luke Jesus is the merciful healer who united with his Father will continue his mission to the end. “The time is coming for Jesus to be taken up (to heaven) and so he sets his face for Jerusalem where he is to die. Luke is portraying a Jesus who knows his destiny and accepts it from God.” (Brown 243-244)
In speaking of the passion of Jesus we are not referring to ‘passionate suffering,’ rather the word comes from the Latin, ‘passio’meaning passiveness, non-activity. Jesus’ public life can be divided into two distinct parts. For three years he was active in teaching, healing, debating and performing miracles. This activity now stops in the garden of Gethsemane – Jesus is in fact, no longer doing things for others but now things are being done to him. He is absorbing something more than actively doing anything. “He is beaten, humiliated, stripped of his clothes and eventually nailed to a cross where he dies. This constitutes his ‘passion,’ that time in his life and ministry where he ceases to be the doer and becomes the one who has things done to him.” (Rolheiser 2) Jesus is victimized but not a victim!
In Luke the Passover meal is central, and it is now that Jesus confides to his apostles that one of them will betray him. We hear Peter’s refusal to accept this and we also hear Jesus speak of the assurance of his prayer for him (his denial). These last moments with his disciples are filled with love and compassion. In our reading from Isaiah, we have the call of a disciple as one who listens, who imbibes God’s spirit and by his/her life reflects that commitment. The disciple is taught by God and the faithfulness of a disciple is based on God’s faithfulness. Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane is that this cup may be removed, “Yet, not my will but yours be done.” (22:42) He faced death with total trust in his Father. As God’s servant and witness to the world, Jesus completed the mission for which he was sent.
What meaning will this Holy Week have for us and how will we live it? This week with Jesus, we see how he was mistreated and misjudged and we ask, who in today’s world receives that same treatment? What motivates people to turn against another and to see them as a threat? During this Holy Week may we find ‘holy moments’ offered up and united with Jesus so that we can be a means of reconciliation, healing and hope. We particularly pray for the people of Ukraine who are undergoing tremendous suffering in a senseless war and for the people of Russia who do not want a war with their neighbors.
Bibliography: Brown, Raymond E., An Introduction to the New Testament, (Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., New York, 1997) Rolheiser, R., The Passion and the Cross, (Franciscan Media, Cincinnati, 2015).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Rita Kammermayer, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna/Alumnus:2001