Palm Sunday 2024

Post Date: March 22, 2024
Author: Ric Cross

A Reflection on the Readings for Palm Sunday, March 24, 2024

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/032424.cfm

Palm Sunday celebration begins with a processional gospel proclamation of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem from the Gospel of Mark, with an optional proclamation from the Gospel of John.

As Mass begins, we have readings from the prophecy of Isaiah and the Letter to the Philippians, followed by the Passion of Christ from the Gospel of Mark, in which the entire congregation participates. There is far too much here to comment on, but I will throw out a couple of tidbits you may find interesting.

The processional gospel from Mark is Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem riding on the colt of an ass, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9: “See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.”  That prophecy comes from the 6th century B.C. but describes exactly what will happen hundreds of years later when Jesus enters Jerusalem. And the people spread their cloaks and palm branches in front of him, proclaiming, “Hosanna in the highest ….. Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come.”  In Hebrew, the word “Hosanna” is understood to mean: “May God save us.”  In declaring Jesus to be the son of David, they are declaring him to be the descendant prophesied in 2 Sm 7 as that descendant who will rule Israel in peace and relieve them of the oppression of the Romans. The crowds, and even the disciples, did not understand that Jesus would be crowned king, but not the political king they were looking for. His kingdom, which will endure forever, will be established through His Resurrection.

In our first reading from Isaiah, the speaker is Isaiah, but we should recognize this as a prophecy, hundreds of years before the time of Christ, that describes what Jesus will have to endure to accomplish his mission. They beat me; they plucked my beard, and they spit on me: “But the Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.”

Our Responsorial Psalm reminds us of Jesus’ humanity. Knowing what he would have to endure on our behalf, his humanity cries out: “My God, why have you abandoned me?”  If it is possible, take this cup from me, but your will be done, not mine.

Our second reading from Philippians is an ancient Christian creed. It is centered on Christ and does not mention the Trinity as do the Apostles and Nicene Creeds but focuses on the divinity of Christ and his humanity. He humbled himself and accepted death, even death on a cross, and because He offered himself for us, He was exalted to the right hand of God.

I find it interesting that in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus only enters Jerusalem once, and it is on what we call Palm Sunday (as compared to the Gospel of John, where Jesus makes several visits to Jerusalem). The reason for this single entry is because a central theme of these gospels is what is referred to as Visitation and Enthronement, meaning that God is coming to his people to redeem them (visitation) and to be enthroned as king, but not as King of Israel, as the king of the universe. And that enthronement will be accomplished by Jesus’ Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension. The single entry into Jerusalem in these synoptic gospels emphasizes that visitation – Jesus entering Jerusalem / God coming to His people in the person of Jesus.

Our gospel is the Passion of Christ, according to Mark, and there is far too much here to comment on. I urge you to read this account in Mark 14-15 or listen attentively when it is proclaimed and put yourself in the crowd at the time. How could that crowd have gone from: “Hosanna to the Son of David” to: “Crucify him, crucify him” in a few short days?

Just the thought of what Jesus had to endure on our behalf is terrifying: the humiliation, the scourging, the crown of thorns, carrying the cross, and then crucifixion! We want to ask: Why did Jesus have to die for our sins? Could there not have been another way? But it is humanity that has sinned, and it is humanity that must pay for those sins. All of humanity is tainted by sin, and therefore, no sinful human can offer proper worship to God or offer God something in reparation for sin. Everything we have in this world is a gift from God, so we have nothing we can offer God in reparation for sin that is not already owed to God. Even our lives are owed to God, according to Genesis 2:17: “If you sin, you will die.”  But Jesus, in his humanity, was totally sinless and, therefore, had something to offer God that was not already owed to God: his sinless life, a sacrifice that God would accept in reparation for human sin. That is precisely why Jesus is totally human as well as totally divine, and it was the humanity of the perfectly sinless Jesus that made reparation for human sin. It was the divinity of Jesus who makes all things new and remakes humanity through the sacraments of the church to remove our sins so we can, hopefully, present ourselves before God without stain or defilement.

Graphic: ©LPI

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