Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017

This is the time of the year we are called to remember and relive the events, which brought about our redemption and salvation. What we commemorate and relive during this week is not just Jesus’ dying and rising, but our own dying and rising in him, which will result in our healing, reconciliation, and redemption. Proper participation in the Holy Week liturgy will deepen our relationship with God, increase our faith and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus. Today’s liturgy combines two contrasting moments of glory and suffering -the welcome of Jesus in Jerusalem and the drama of his trial culminating in his crucifixion.

Bishop Fulton Sheen speaks of the worst paradox that was ever written in history. On the one hand the sovereignty of the Lord and on the other His need. This is the combination of Divinity and dependence, of possession and poverty was the consequence of the Word becoming Flesh.

He was rich became poor for our sake, that we might become rich. He borrowed a boat from a fisherman from which to preach; He borrowed barley loaves and fishes from a boy to feed the multitude; He borrowed a grave from which He would rise; and now He borrowed an ass on which to enter Jerusalem.

1) The joy of the Cross

In the first phase of the liturgy, we are called to share the joy for the Messiah who enters triumphantly into Jerusalem and is welcomed by the people singing and shaking palms. The people praise Jesus because they recognize him as the Messiah, the Christ, the King sent by God, the Son of Man and the Son of God.

In the second phase, we are confronted in the eyes and in the heart with the fact that this festive welcome is followed by the drama of the Lord, who is tried, scourged, and put on the cross to die.

How are these two moments, which seem so contradictory, connected to each other? How are, the two memories combined? In the cross, that is throne, altar and chair, and in the sign of the cross, that we are called to make often especially at the beginning of every liturgy.

To understand this response, let us identify with someone in the crowd who cheered Jesus on that day, saying: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord “(Mk 11.9; Ps 117/118, 25s). The people raise this cry before Jesus because they recognize the one who comes in the name of the Lord (the phrase “He who comes in the name of the Lord”, in fact, had become the designation of the Messiah). In Jesus they recognize the One who truly comes in the name of the Lord and brings God’s presence among them. This cry of hope of Israel and this acclamation of Jesus during his entry into Jerusalem rightly became, in the Church, the acclamation of the One who comes to us and offers us his Kingdom. Let us enter into his kingdom of peace and let us greet in Him, in some way, all our brothers and sisters to whom He comes to become truly a kingdom of peace in this world torn to pieces.

This King is a totally different from the other kings because:

– He is poor (he uses a donkey to enter as “winner” in Jerusalem); he is a poor man among the poor and for the poor;

–  He has a cross as his throne, typical of those who give life and not of those who take it away;

–  He uses the cross as a chair from where he teaches that love is stronger than death. He is the king and the teacher who teaches us not to confront injustice with another injustice, and violence with more violence. He teaches us that we can and must only overcome evil with good and never return evil for evil. With Christ, the cross is no longer a sign of life denial, but an altar where the sacrifice for life is made.

2) Christ’s Passion

On this Palm Sunday we are invited to recognize that the cross is the true tree of life, on which Christ, who is life, conquered death with the loving and total gift of himself. The cross is the instrument of the Passion of Christ, not only because it makes Him suffer with immense pain, but because it shows that His love is passionate.

Yes, Christ loves us passionately to the point to die for us. Is this not what basically we all want? In fact, we want someone who really loves us with the love, which we do not find anywhere else and only in small pieces in our parents, our beloveds, our families, our children, and our friends.  They are fragments of what we need, that we find scattered in the days and that are so difficult to put back together so that they may give meaning, peace, and joy to our lives. Here is now the One we are longing for. Here He is, loving us up to the point of letting himself to be killed for us.

Today, let’s read the account of the Passion with compassion, care and devotion and we will meet the Sanhedrin, the high priest Caiaphas, Herod the king, the ruler Pilate, the delinquent Barabbas, and everyone else, and whips, nails, the spear and the Cross. But with the eyes of the heart we will also see the threads of our lives. The Passion is our life of Yesterday, today, and tomorrow; Penalties, anxieties, pain, broken dreams, sorrows, and sins. The intertwining of our lives is enclosed in the Passion of Christ. There we will find a meaning for all that seem messed up, wires without rhyme or reason, sorrows and joys twisted on hours, experiences thrown randomly in the days. Our story is all in Jesus’ Passion of love, just for us.

Let’s meditate with devotion the story of the Passion of the Redeemer.  There, we will find the love born from the suffering endured by Christ for us. He came down from Heaven out of love and with passionate love gave his life for us. Even today, He continues to descent in every moment of our lives to pour his charity. “He did not come to explain the cross, but to lay over it” (Paul Claudel). More than listening to explanations and speeches, let’s contemplate the fact of Christ on the Cross. A fact simple and true: He is on the cross for us, to be with us always. Our entire being is transformed into love.

If we truly want to live this Palm Sunday and the Holy Week, of which this Sunday is the gate, let’s look with the eyes of the heart the patient Crucified Jesus and we will recognize in his flesh our flesh. “May the creature tremble in front of the last moments of his Redeemer. May the rocks of the unfaithful hearts break, and may those who were lying in the grave come out sweeping every obstacle. May they appear now in the holy city, that is the Church of God, the signs of the future resurrection, and what one day must occur in the bodies, may be now fulfilled in the hearts “(John Chrysostom).