Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Palm Sunday Year C

Readings: Is. 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Lk 22:14-23:56

It was Palm Sunday, and a 6-year old boy had to stay home because of strep throat while the family went to church. 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 in the triumphal entry into Jerusalem which 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. There are two sides of the Palm Sunday liturgy: the joyful mystery and the sorrowful mystery pointing to the resurrection. There is the joyful entry into Jerusalem and the immanent passion and death on the cross. 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 the other 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). Luke portrays 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 in Luke is therefore God’s expression of mercy, compassion and the healing power of Jesus (22:51,61;23:43). 2) Jesus goes to his death out of the Father’s mercy and compassion: “daughters of Jerusalem weep not for me”; “Father forgive them”; “Today you will be with me in paradise.” 3) Jesus does not go to death lonely and abandoned unlike the passion story of Mark, but in Luke Jesus is accompanied by others who follow him on the way of the Cross (23:26-31,49). Palm Sunday is always a call to accompany Jesus in his passion and death, so we may enter into his resurrection at Easter. Have a blessed Easter.

©2016 John S. Mbinda

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