Friday, March 26, 2010

March 28: Palm Sunday Year C

March 28: Palm Sunday Year C
Readings: Is. 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Lk 22:14-23:56

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! A triumphal entry into Jerusalem by Jesus 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.

In the Passion of our Lord according to Luke, we encounter a drama of cosmic proportions with an interesting cast of characters, Jesus being at the center stage. Luke takes a different approach from any of the evangelists. While Mark’s approach underlines the isolation of Jesus throughout, Matthew underlines a paradoxical royalty of Jesus (contradicted by his humility), and John taking the same line but real royalty. Luke underlines the innocence of Jesus (23:4, 14-15.22). Thus Jesus is a victim of the powers of evil (22:3,31,53), but goes to his death to fulfill the will of the Father (22:42-46). There is a certain serenity in Jesus’ death: “Father into your hands, I commend my spirit.” So what message do we take home? 1) For Luke, the passion is not just a narrative but a reality that must be interpreted for others as “Good News.” The passion narrative of Luke therefore underlines the mercy, compassion and healing power of Jesus (22:51,61;23:43). 2) Thus Jesus goes out of compassion to humanity: “daughters of Jerusalem weep not for me”; “Father forgive them” ; “Today you will be with me in paradize.” 3) Jesus does not go to death lonely and abandoned unlike the passion story of Mark, but accompanied by others who follow him on the way of the Cross (23:26-31,49). May we too accompany Jesus in his suffering, death and resurrection during the coming Easter Triduum that culminates on Easter Vigil. Have a blessed Easter.

©2010 John S. Mbinda

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