April 17, 2011 - Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Today's Readings

We begin Holy Week today. During Holy Week we remember the last week before Jesus’ death. Holy Week is the prototype of all the weeks of the year. Thursday is always a good day for Eucharistic Adoration, since it was on Holy Thursday at the Last Supper that Jesus instituted the Eucharist. Every Friday of the year is a day of abstinence from meat. In addition to this small sacrifice, each Friday in general ought to be devoted to a more serious attitude, since Good Friday was the day that Jesus died for our sins. Every Saturday is devoted to the Blessed Mother and to silence, since it was on Holy Saturday that Jesus’ body lay in the tomb silently, and it was on Holy Saturday that our Blessed Mother was at home, mourning for her son, believing that he would rise. Every Sunday is a day of rejoicing, since on Easter Sunday Jesus rose from the dead. For this reason, we all come to Church every Sunday in hopes that we too will rise.

Why do we today then, on a Sunday, read out the Passion of Jesus Christ? It seems out of place, since Jesus did not die on Palm Sunday and it seems inappropriate, since Sunday is supposed to be a day of rejoicing. Partly, the reason is just practical: not everyone can be here on Good Friday and the Gospel next Sunday, on Easter, will not make much sense without the Gospel today. Jesus cannot rise without having first died. This is not the whole reason though.

It is indeed fitting to read the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ today. We must realize that the triumphant arrival of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem was one with his death on the Cross. On Palm Sunday, Jesus climbed up Mount Zion; in his passion, he climbed Mount Calvary. On Palm Sunday, Jesus was carried into Jerusalem; in his passion, he walked carrying his cross. On Palm Sunday, a crowd lined the streets to praise our Lord; a crowd lined the way of the cross too. On Palm Sunday, the crowd took off their cloaks and laid them on the road to honor Jesus; before the cross, Jesus was stripped of his cloak. On Palm Sunday, everyone praised Jesus, calling out “Hosanna!” In his passion, Jesus was insulted, mocked, and laughed at.

Palm Sunday is the key to understanding the Passion, and the Passion is the key to understanding Palm Sunday. We stand with palms in our hands because we want to worship God and give him the honor that is his due. We also stand as sinners. We are the reason that Jesus died on the cross. We praise God and ask forgiveness. On the one hand, we imagine that we are already up in heaven praising Jesus. On the other hand, we allow the demons to pull us down to Hell. Are we part of the crowd praising Jesus or are we part of the crowd demanding that he be crucified? Both. Let us not imagine that we are so good that we would never have gone along with his death. Every time we commit sin, we stand with the crowd yelling, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Indeed, his blood is on us, and that blood saves us.