March 24, 2013 –– Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
This Palm Sunday represents one of the great liturgical dichotomies. We begin the liturgy with a procession of celebration — a commemoration of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, as the people shouted “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” and “Hosanna in the highest.” We continue to the reading of the Passion, which reaches its zenith with the Lord calling out, “ ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’; and when he had said this he breathed his last.”
It is as if we move from joy and celebration to utter defeat and emptiness. However, that is the essence of our entire Lenten journey, and our beginning of Holy Week, which is today. One of the important aspects of our sense of stewardship is increasing our understanding of our Faith. If you are over 60 years of age, you may recall that up until Vatican II, there were three consecutive weekends — Passion Sunday, Palm Sunday, and Easter Sunday.
After Vatican II the Church combined Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday for the purpose of placing greater emphasis on the solemnity of Holy Week — giving it the official title of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. During this holiest of weeks we are beginning, Christ presents the great contradiction of the way He was praised and loved by some and reviled by others. Just as this Palm Sunday opens with joy and closes with seeming sorrow, our Holy week follows the same formula — including His death for us on the Cross, but closing with a complete sense of triumph.
All of the readings for this Palm Sunday of the Passion of our Lord are significant, but they naturally culminate with the proclamation of “The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke.” The Passion represents the longest Gospel of the entire liturgical year. It is worth considering some of the important features of this Gospel.
This Gospel is vivid; it is, so to speak, a “slap in our faces.” The joy of the beginning of the Mass is contrasted against the betrayal of Jesus by a trusted friend… His bloody suffering at the hands of Pilate and the Romans… His utter humiliation as He carried a Cross through the city to a jeering crowd… and His final pain and degradation as He is nailed to the Cross and He dies.
The steward understands that she/he travels with the Lord every step of the way, from the highs to the lows, from triumph to evident disaster. Throughout Lent we have been striving to deepen our relationship with Him. Nevertheless, when it comes right down to it, we may resist His invitation to us because it can mean pain, sacrifice, and suffering. That is why we must experience Lent. That is why we must experience His Passion. And that is why next week on Easter Sunday we will arise with the Lord in triumph, joy, and celebration. Truly, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”