April 5 Palm Sunday Year B
Readings: Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Mk 14:1-15:47
It was Palm Sunday, and the family's 6-year old son had to stay home from church because of strep throat. When the rest of the family returned home carrying palm branches, the little boy asked what they were for. His mother explained, "People held them over Jesus' head as he walked by." "Wouldn't you know it," the boy fumed. "The one Sunday I don't go to church, and Jesus shows up!
Yes, Jesus shows up on Palm Sunday morning. He makes a triumphal entry into Jerusalem. That entrance becomes prophetic: the one who enters the city in triumph is the same one who is led out of the city by crowds to be crucified. That is what we celebrate and commemorate on Palm Sunday - the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. This is where Jesus will accomplish the Paschal mystery through his passion, death and resurrection. The Palm Sunday procession opens the Holy Week festivities towards Easter. The procession proclaims Jesus, who through his death returns into the glory of the Father. As we carry green branches and joyfully acclaim Jesus, we become part of the crowd accompanying Jesus on his prophetic entry into Jerusalem in order to pass from this world to the Father. We thus become part of the pilgrim people of God on their way to the New Jerusalem. There are two sides of the Palm Sunday liturgy: the joyful mystery and the sorrowful mystery. There is the joyful entry into Jerusalem and the immanent passion and death on the cross. The one who is joyfully acclaimed is the same one who is soon to be condemned by the crowd to die on the cross for our sins. Thus Jesus becomes a perfect model of what our journey of faith must finally involve - being humiliated, persecuted to the point of accepting death on the cross, so that God may raise us up on the last day.
The Passion of our Lord according to St. Mark offers us an opportunity to be with Christ on the way of the cross, starting at the garden of Gethsemani. Yet here at Gethsemani we find those who should have watched with Christ, the disciples asleep, overcome by human weakness. They too run away on seeing Jesus arrested. They all leave Jesus completely abandoned, isolated, tormented and ridiculed as a king. Even at the cross the disciples keep their distance, afraid, and Christ seems to have been abandoned by everybody even his own Father. This isolation is dramatised by the great silence of Jesus throughout the passion story except a few words on the cross. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me". The greatest drama of our faith today is the ease with which Christ is abandoned suffering on the cross and in the lives of so many people. Just as the joyful entrance into Jerusalem soon ends into the sorrowful mystery of the Lord’s passion, we too are caught up in that mystery as we accompany Jesus in his final hours of suffering. We must not run away from the scene like the disciples, but must remain with our Lord, isolated and abandoned, which is the central point of Mark’s account of the passion.
©2009 John M. Mbinda