Today is Palm Sunday! The Entrance Antiphon for our Holy Mass celebration captures the very essence of Passion Sunday:
"Six days before the Passover, when the Lord came into the city of Jerusalem, the children ran to meet him; in their hands they carried palm branches and with a loud voice cried out: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed are you, who have come in your abundant mercy! "
We humbly make all efforts to observe this solemn day, almost exactly as captured in the antiphon, every single year. Almost, but not exactly because it is never the same without the physical presence of the main actor, who is our Lord Jesus Christ.
In his homily on Palm Sunday, Fr. Tony shared about an interesting as well as challenging old fable of the colt that carried Jesus. The colt thought that the reception was organized to honor him. “I am a unique donkey!” this excited animal might have thought. When he asked his mother if he could walk down the same street alone the next day and be honored again, his mother said, “No, you are nothing without Him who was riding you.” Five days later, the colt saw a huge crowd of people in the street. It was Good Friday, and the soldiers were taking Jesus to Calvary. The colt could not resist the temptation of another royal reception. Ignoring the warning of his mother, he ran to the street, but he had to flee for his life as soldiers chased him and people stoned him. Thus, the colt finally learned the lesson that he was only a poor donkey without Jesus to ride on him.
Like the donkey, we are nothing without Christ in our journey through life. We need God to make sense with everything that we do in all contexts of life – physical, moral, psychological, emotional, social, sexual, economics, political, spiritual, etc. While we are good with departmentalizing our Sunday life from other days of the week, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic illustrates our weaknesses and limitations, and most importantly, our need of God for protection and salvation.
Why is Jesus the center and the main actor of Palm Sunday? The readings that we have just heard tell us why. Let us quickly reflect on God’s Word:
First, the Gospel of Matthew is about the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although it is a very long narrative of our Lord’s suffering, crucifixion, and death, we have a great lesson to learn amid our fears and anxieties due to COVID-19. Throughout his passion Jesus was not carried away by the events and circumstances. His only concern was to fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation. That is why he followed the path of humility and patient endurance.
The humility of our Lord Jesus to focus on the Father’s plan to save mankind amid pains and sufferings, and yes, even to death. Both the First and Second Readings detail on how our Lord Jesus humbly embraced His Father’s plan.
Isaiah 50:4-7 is called the Song of the Suffering Servant. It is the third Song of the Lord’s Servant that foreshadows the preaching mission of Jesus and the tortures inflicted on him and endured during his passion because He loves the Father and the people entrusted to His care. And, Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, defines who Jesus Christ is and what He is all about. In dramatic sentences, Saint Paul summarizes the total denial of His identity as God by becoming like you and me except sin. His self-emptying resulted to the supreme exaltation that He is the Son of God.
Our baptism sets all of us to a similar calling – through pains and sufferings, we stand for God and the inheritance of heaven. It’s not easy, and we cannot do it by our ourselves alone. With God’s merciful help, we can get it done. But we need to constantly abide in Christ!
As we enter Holy Week, today’s readings challenge us to examine our lives to see whether we carry Jesus within us and bear witness to Him through our living or are Christians in name only.
Little Johnny was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from Church with his mother. His father returned from Church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked, “Why do you have that palm branch, dad?” His father explained, “You see, when Jesus came into town, everyone waved palm branches to honor Him; so we got palm branches today.” “Aw, shucks,” grumbled Little Johnny. “The one Sunday I can’t go to Church, and Jesus shows up!”