During this Passiontide, the Church takes us to Jerusalem. After completing his three-year ministry, the Lord Jesus enters the Holy City in triumph. Imitating King Solomon, who rode on an ass into the city of his father for his coronation, Jesus also enters the City of David on an ass.
The people hail him as king, announce him with messianic chants of hosanna, and throw their clothing and palms at his feet. It was a startling experience, especially to the religious elders who sought to preserve an equilibrium with the occupying Roman authorities.
Fulfilling the messianic secret – in which he admonished people not to tell others who he was – the Lord Jesus permitted the highly charged hosannas to be sung and for the regal acts of devotion to be given. In response to the nervous elders, who told him to stop the chants, the Lord announced that if his disciples were silent then the very stones of Jerusalem would cry out.
The Lord was taking possession of his city. The king, the Son of David, had returned.
This powerful, symbol-filled event is celebrated at the beginning of each Holy Week of every year. Because of its importance, the Church keeps it in the forefront of the spiritual consciousness of every believer. And so, it is worth asking some questions:
What is the significance of this Palm Sunday event? How can an awareness of this event help believers to better live their Christian vocation in our world today?
When the Lord entered the Holy City, there were all sorts of people. There were devout Jews, non-observant Jews, and Gentiles. There were people with religious motives, political motives, practical motives, or no motives at all. And yet, the Lord showed a connectivity with each of them. The proclamation of his messianic role was announced to all people.
In a similar way, the world in which we live today is filled with people of faith, secularists, atheists, as well as those who are completely indifferent to all things spiritual. As with the Lord Jesus, so we are called to show an openness and connectivity with all people.
We are commissioned to present the Lord Jesus’ message of love and mercy to all men and women. We are called to see our hearts in the hearts of others and to be generous in sharing the Good News with all.
In entering Jerusalem at the end of his public ministry, the Lord Jesus manifested a profound sense of mission. No one or anything would dissuade him from the mission given to him by his Father. He was singular in his focus and would allow nothing to diminish the love or zeal he had for the mission entrusted to him.
In exactly the same way, the Christian believer accepts the vocation to continue the message and work of Jesus Christ. In spite of possible fear, anxiety, misunderstanding or rejection, the Christian announces the message of salvation, the forgiveness of sins, the primacy of virtue, and the selfless love of neighbor.
In this way, the believer realizes that she – and the whole Church – is in a constant state of mission. Jerusalem, therefore, becomes a symbol of the entire world and it is a world that the Christian – imitating the Lord Jesus – must enter with humility and joy.
The solemn entrance into the City of David was truly the culmination of the Lord’s adventurous public ministry, as it was also an adventure all its own since it would be the beginning of his dolorous Passion.
Even the suffering and sorrow was a part of the journey – the adventure – of the Lord’s life as he sought to do all that was asked of him, to pour out his life for others, and to show the human family how to live as the children of God.
In seeing this way of life, we are invited to enter the journey of faith. Rejecting plateaus and comfort zones, we are welcomed into the adventure of living our lives according to the will of the all-powerful, ever-present God. This is the will of God that includes palms, donkeys, songs, and intrigue. It brings together children of Abraham, foreigner rulers, and everyone in-between.
It’s dynamic, always engaging, ever moving, unpredictable, and it constantly compels us outside of ourselves. This is the will of God, and living by it is the greatest adventure of Jesus’ life and of our lives, if we follow the Lord, say “yes” to all that is asked of us, and enjoy the adventure.
These are some of the lessons that can be gleaned from Palm Sunday. They are a help to us as we now enter the holiest week of the year.
Main image: A man carries a statue of Christ adorned with palm fronds during a Holy Thursday procession March 29 in Izalco, El Salvador. (Credit: CNS photo/Rodrigo Sura, EPA.)
Written By: Father Jeffrey F. Kirby