|Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion
Reading at the Procession
The liturgy today has two distinct, but related Gospels and themes. Before the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins, we join in the ancient tradition of recalling that “Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.” This journey which began in Bethlehem and wended its way through the towns and villages of the country, always was moving upwards towards the Altar of Calvary.
As the liturgy of that week begins, we recall the Entrance Rite wherein Jesus, riding on a donkey, is proclaimed as the blessed “king who comes in the name of the Lord.” The people are shouting their praises for all the deeds they had seen Jesus perform. They cover the road in front of the procession with their cloaks and palm branches.
This ritual is meaningful for us only if we are celebrating what Jesus has done for us by being faithful to His journey. We hold our palms reverently and meaningfully when we recall that He would do it all again for each of us. The original liturgy of that ancient Palm Sunday was celebrated by those who knew what Jesus had done. We celebrate with palms in grateful anticipation for where His faithfulness will lead Him and what this will mean in our lives.
The reading from Isaiah begins our reflections on the events which form the liturgical events of our Lord’s final hours. The reading is one of the Servant Songs of the Prophet and speaks of this servant of God’s being resolute and determined. He will be beaten, but not dissuaded. The servant is faithful, because his God is faithful. The servant’s trusting frees him to resist discouragement and the abandoning of what he has heard.
Luke’s account of the final liturgy of His dying needs little explanation. What we hear brings up pictures of the Word Made Flesh, experiencing all that flesh fears. Proclamation turns to condemnation as Jesus moves from the intimacy of the Passover ritual and the sharing of His body and blood to the sharing of His life and spirit on the table of the Cross.
We may smile a bit as we hear the close friends of Jesus who have just received His commissioning them to remember Him in the blessing of bread and wine in thanksgiving for His life. They are walking towards the very conclusion of the saving liturgy and they want to know who is to be considered “number one.” Jesus stays faithful even to their human selfishness, pride and greed. He reinforces His own personal identity as “Servant of God.”
The rest of the liturgy within the Gospel is His living out to His death, His mission as Saving Servant. He is betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter. Jesus is taken before Pilate, who sends Him to Herod, who mocks Him and then sends Him back to Pilate, who sends Him to His final act of acceptance and trust of His Father. All this He did in praise of the One Who called Him “Beloved.”
Faithfulness can appear to be a form of obsession or delusion. Jesus held fast to His journey. The more He was handed over by his disciples and His enemies, the more He handed Himself over into the hands of His Father to Whom He had cried out in human terms both of fear and faith. The more He was rejected, the more He accepted who He was. The more the crowd grew in anger and dislike, the more Jesus became thankful for His life. This “Thanksgiving Sacrifice” on the altar at Calvary is the consummation of a total life leading to a death and the whole of it is the one act by which we are saved. It is also the manner by which we who remember in liturgy, re-form that life and spirit in our own personal journeys.
We may be betrayed, denied, abandoned, rejected and handed over,
ourselves. We may question ourselves as to whether we are obsessed,
deluded or simply faithful. The Servant of the Lord continued to
be the One Who served at the Table of the first Eucharist and continues
doing so this very day. We are invited to allow Him to serve us from
the Cross and to serve us as we live our lives in the liturgy of our own
lives with its crosses. We do so in proclamation of God’s being faithful
in being the Servant to our fears and faith.
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