March 25, 2018
by Tom Shanahan, S.J.
Creighton University's Athletic Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion
Lectionary: 37 and 38

Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalms 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24.
Philippians 2:6-11
Mark 14:1—15:47 or Mark 15:1-39

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Daily Lent Prayer for Today

The 1st Four Days of Holy Week - 14 min. - Text Transcript

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Liturgically, Palm Sunday ushers in the dramatic events of Holy Week.  As Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem, we are struck with the oddity of this "triumph." It is so different from the decidedly down-to-earth life and service of the man who ministered to the needs of his countrymen, the Galileans.

The gospel that accompanies today's entrance rite has Jesus poised just outside of Jerusalem.  The journey to this point has been long and arduous.  St. Mark's gospel is based on this journey as it traces the Lord's movement from the ministry of Jesus around his home-area, Galilee, to Jerusalem where he will be tried, die a cruel death and be raised to new life by his Father-God.

Jesus (and his disciples) journey to Jerusalem.  The journey is far from a jaunty travelogue of places and events that capture the times and places of the surrounding area. Their journey itself is a kind of a theological account of Jesus' life and particularly its deeper purposes.

In this respect Jerusalem is more than a geographical place, but a symbol of Jesus' whole aim from God's perspective.  Jerusalem is the end of his journey, but, also and more importantly, the place where the crucial events of Jesus' life unfold, his death and resurrection.

Lent provides us the possibility of a spiritual preparation to live into Jesus' death and resurrection, the paschal mystery.  We have been invited to journey with Jesus in his journeying for us.  These past few weeks may have provided us the opportunity to discover anew the tremendous love of God in Christ.  Our own call begins with the discovery of the roots of our brand of selfishness.  Jesus' faithfulness to his call and journey becomes for us the way of moving away from the things that block God's love in Christ Jesus.

Palm Sunday opens Holy Week on a note that is foreign to much of the gospel: Jesus being revered as a King. We, who know the rest of the story, realize that this is but a fleeting moment.  it acts as a precursor for an entirely new interpretation of what it means to be "king."  For Jesus, to be a king does not mean that he lords it over people the way that temporal kings usually act.  Jesus' kingship is one of serving the needs of those poor in spirit who need the ministry of the ultimate king, Jesus the Christ.  His service ends with his brutal death.  The service Jesus provides comes at a tremendous cost.

Jesus enters Jerusalem on a colt (a kingly practice) and the people respond with great joy.  Far too quickly that joy response turns to the bitter hatred shown in the trial and cruel death of Jesus.  From the "hosannas" of Palm Sunday to the jeering, "Give us Barabbas" of Good Friday seems such a long leap in a very short time.  What a fickle lot we are!
What is the meaning of the events of that day when Jesus enters Jerusalem?  It shows us how easily we miss the point.  We really do need a rescuer and Jesus is God's offering of that gift to us, calling us from the instability of our specious responses to the down-to-earth reality and the beauty of Jesus' constant channeling of God's saving love for us.

Lord, guide us as we come to understand your great love in your Son Jesus. Help us to heed your call to integrity and faithfulness modelled by Jesus' life.  Be with us at all moments of our lives especially those moments that we selfishly prefer ourselves to your life-giving Word.

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