Reflection for Palm Sunday (C) – April 14, 2019
As we move into Holy Week, the liturgy this weekend confronts us with a dramatic shift in tone and perspective. We begin with a triumphal procession into the church, carrying palms and singing hymns in praise of Jesus, the long-awaited Son of David and King of Israel. We recall Jesus’ own entrance into Jerusalem when crowds of people assemble to greet him and prepare his way with joyful shouts of hosanna and blessings for the name of the Lord. Yet Jesus does not enter the city to achieve celebrity status or gain accolades, but rather he enters the city to accomplish the mission for which the Father has sent him. This mission, however, challenges the religious establishment, and the crowds that welcomed him with loud hosannas now turn against him and cry out, “Crucify him!” Our exultant entrance meets a sudden halt in the liturgy as the psalmist chants the haunting refrain, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” From here, we move into the reading of the passion narrative from Luke’s Gospel, culminating with Jesus’ death on the cross at an hour when darkness descends over the whole land. Here begins our Holy Week reflection. Yet despite a liturgical about-face this Sunday, hope permeates our celebration. Christ’s rejection, his humiliation, his death on a tree—these give us the image of perfect love completely poured out for our salvation.
Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem. As he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples. He said, “Go into the village opposite you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. And if anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you will answer, ‘The Master has need of it.’” So those who had been sent went off and found everything just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying this colt?” They answered, “The Master has need of it.” So they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount. As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”
To Jesus Christ, our sov’reign King, who is the world’s salvation,
all praise and homage do we bring, and thanks and adoration.
Your reign extend, O King benign, to ev’ry land and nation;
for in your kingdom, Lord, divine, alone we find salvation.
To you and to your Church, great King, we pledge our hearts’ oblation,
until before your throne we sing in endless jubilation.
Christ Jesus, Victor! Christ Jesus, Ruler! Christ Jesus, Lord and Redeemer!