Palm Sunday is the last Sunday in Lent and the beginning of the most Holy Week in the Christian calendar, when we commemorate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Holy Week is a week of no swearing, no quarrels, no hatred or hurtful feelings in our hearts and no gossiping. It is a week of love, reconciliation, fairness, kindness and of peace.
Palm symbolises peace and victory, hence, the use of palms today portrays Christ as the King of peace. Jesus came to reconcile humanity with itself and with God. He said, “blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called children of God,” (Mt 5:9). St Paul also informed us that in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our sins against us, and now, He has entrusted to us the task of spreading the Good News of God’s reconciliation, (2Cor 5:19). Though in Christ, God has reconciled the world to Himself, however, the world is still in dire need of the fruits of that reconciliation. Hence, there is a need for humanity to allow the way of life of Jesus to permeate their lives by accepting him as their King, Lord and Saviour!
Today, we are celebrating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to accomplish the mission entrusted to him by the Father. This celebration is both joyous and sober. The first part of the ceremony which relates to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is joyous and the second part of the ceremony that narrates his Passion is sober.
Jesus who is our king, priest and prophet had shied away from drawing attention to himself during his earthly ministry. When he healed the sick, he would instruct them not to reveal his identity to others. Though he was God, he emptied himself and became human for our sake, and being human, he lived a humble life, (Phil 2:6-7). Jesus invites us to emulate his self-emptying by getting rid of unnecessary pride in our lives. He also calls on us to come to him with our joys and sorrows, for he said, “come to me all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest, shoulder my yoke for I am lowly and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls,” (Matt 11:20-30).
Just as Jesus allowed his glory to become manifest to his disciples at his Transfiguration, likewise, in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he allowed himself to be treated as a King. Angel Gabriel had proclaimed during the Annunciation that Jesus was to be born to take over the throne of his ancestor David and that his kingdom will have no end, (Lk 1:32). Jesus consecrated by the Holy Spirit and sent by the Father, entered Jerusalem for the climax of his mission. The Father had attested that Jesus was His Son in whom He was well pleased, and He had asked us to listen to him, (Lk 9:35). In the Gospel of John, in the lead up to his Passion, Death and Resurrection, many people came to the awareness that he was the Messiah and believed in him; thus, obeying the injunction from the Father that we should listen to him.
The Gospel of Mark, (Mk 11:1-11), narrates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Even in his moment of glory, Jesus still chose the humble path. He chose to ride on a donkey which espouses humility and peace, rather than on a horse which is more magnificent and projects power, strength, and war. His disciples spread their cloak on the donkey and Jesus sat on it. Some people in the crowd placed their cloaks on the road, others cut tree branches and placed them on the road. They chanted with joy and praise, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heavens!”
Today as we celebrate Palm Sunday, let us with hearts full of gratitude to God raise our branches with songs of praise to Christ our King. Let us adore and worship him with our hearts, minds, and bodies. Jesus enters Jerusalem to undergo his Passion, Death, and Resurrection; may his sacrifices bestow on us grace upon grace, (Jn 1:16).
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp