Reflection: Palm Sunday

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m.

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering

Bible study/sharing every Saturday (2:00-4:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church, 5 Leicester Place WC2H 7BX (near See Woo Chinese Supermarket, Leicester Square tube station)

Talk and discussion meeting First Monday of every month (4:00-6:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church


[Mt.21:1-11: Is.50:4-7; Ps. 21; Phil.2:6-11; Mt. 26:14-27:66]

Our reflection today is aimed at helping us understand better what we will be celebrating during Holy Week. Holy Week starts today with Palm Sunday and goes through the week towards Holy Saturday before the Easter Vigil (Saturday Evening) where  we celebrate together, and more intensely, the Passion of the Christ.  During the procession with the Palms, we listen to a gospel which tells us the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. We then listen to the reading of the whole Passion of Christ during the normal readings of the Mass.

The first reading presented today (during the procession of the Palms) is Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a tethered donkey and a colt.  Matthew, the gospel writer, tells us why this is done: “to fulfil the prophecy of the humble king riding on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden“.  Jesus therefore is taking on himself what was written by the Prophets.  We are told that the disciples laid their cloaks on the backs of the donkey and the colt for Jesus to sit on.  We are also told that great crowds of people spread their cloaks on the road and others cut branches from the trees and spreading them in Jesus’ path.  Indeed, Jesus was given a very warm, majestic welcome by the crowds … All this, of course, will change when we later contrast this scene with what will happen during Jesus’ passion.  Furthermore, we are also told that the crowds who went in front of him and those who followed were all shouting expressions indicating that Jesus is King (Son of David); that Jesus is coming in the name of the Lord; and, at the same time, that through Jesus one arrives to be in the highest heavens.  Jesus then enters Jerusalem and we are told that the whole city was in turmoil.  If anyone had any doubts about what was going on, the gospel writer tells us that there were some people asking ‘Who is this?’, a whole lot more who were there (i.e. the crowds) answered, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’ There cannot therefore be any doubt.  This is Jesus and we are about to re-live his act of bringing us salvation!  If we keep this in mind while we listen to the gospel today, we will understand much better the parallelisms between this gospel (i.e. the entering of Jesus in Jerusalem) and the other one that is to follow during the Mass (i.e. the Passion of Jesus).

The first reading for the Mass this week is taken from the Prophet Isaiah and it speaks about the obedient servant who, although treated badly, continued to have faith and trust that the Lord God will come to his help.  It is precisely what Jesus did and it should also be what we are to do in our daily life, especially in times of trial.

The Psalm’s refrain is what has become known as Jesus’ prayer to the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  The Psalm itself seems to be telling us what Jesus’ will be going through and experience throughout his passion.  It is the lamentations and prayers of the person who is suffering.  Yet the psalmist urges the disciple not to lose heart.  He tells the person who is lamenting and praying “You who fear the Lord give him praise; all sons of Jacob, give him glory. Revere him, Israel’s sons“.

The second reading is taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  He tells us that Jesus, who participates of the divine state, because he is God himself, emptied himself from ‘Godhood’ and became a man, assumed the condition of a slave and accepted the humble death on a cross.  God raised him high and gave him back what was his and making him known as Jesus Christ the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Christ can be a model to those who are ready to let themselves go into the Father’s hands!

For the gospel in the liturgy of the Word, this year we have Matthew’s version of what happened during the last few days in Jesus’ earthly life.  As we listen to the passion narratives, we have to keep in mind the constant flashbacks to Old Testament stories which are linked to the life of Jesus.  We are told that Judas chose to betray Jesus during the Passover.  The Passover for Jesus represented the salvation for God’s people.  Jesus’ passion becomes the Salvation for God’s new people, those who choose to follow Christ.

As for the story in itself, we all know what happened during the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we pay attention to what we will hear, it will help us to understand better what Jesus went through for our sake.

Let us now concentrate on Jesus when he is presented in front of the Governor, Pontius Pilate.  Jesus, the Judge of all judges is in front of a Governor to be himself judged.  The first question that Pilate puts to Jesus is if he is the King of the Jews.  Jesus does not deny that he is because he is known as such.  He is known to be the Son of David.  When he is accused by the chief priests and the elders, Jesus offered no reply…  Pilate who was quite aware that all this was driven by jealousy really wanted to release Jesus. In fact, he offered the crowds the opportunity, according to tradition, to choose between Jesus and Barabbas.  The crowd however, instigated by the chief priests and the elders, asked for the release of Barabbas and demanded the crucifixion of Jesus. The same people that only a few days ago were welcoming Jesus, calling Jesus “Son of David”, are now calling for his “Crucifixion”.  So, to appease the crowd, Pilate ordered Jesus to be first scourged and then handed over to be crucified.

Once Jesus was crucified the gospel writer described some extraordinary cosmic signs, so much so that the centurion, together with others guarding Jesus, when they felt the earthquake and saw all that was taking place, they were quite terrified and said, ‘In truth this was a son of God’.

After hearing this Passion narrative and taking time to think about it, will we be able to say that truly, Jesus is the Son of God for us as well?

“Lord, you are the Son of God.  You are the one sent to help us understand the Father’s love for us.  Give us the strength that we need to be able to let ourselves go into the Father’s hands, especially in times of trial and tribulation.  Thank you Lord!”

Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo )

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