Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Year A

Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22, 8-9, 17-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66

Gospel at the Procession: Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem has all the markings of a royal procession and is recalled in the proclamation of Matthew’s Gospel at the beginning of Mass.

First Reading: In this passage from Isaiah, the prophet’s particular ministry is to speak the word of the Lord; his gift is a “well-trained tongue.” Every day the word of the Lord comes to him; his proclamations rouse the people, encouraging them to hear the word and live by it.

Psalm 22: Today’s psalm is both a lament and an expression of praise. The psalmist, like the figure in Isaiah, is a suffering servant.

Second Reading: In the letter to the Philippians, Paul offers a Christological reflection noting that Jesus is exalted and his name placed above every other name; every tongue, every knee will honor him.

Gospel: Matthew’s Passion narrative is a series of events that unfold in several locations. What is key to Matthew is forgiveness. At the beginning of Matthew, the angel told Joseph that the child to be born would save his people from their sins. After presenting the Lord’s Prayer, the one idea from it that Matthew reemphasizes is forgiveness. In 18:34-35, he reiterates the command to forgive as one has been forgiven. Thus, when he showed Jesus interpreting the meaning of his impending death, Matthew emphasized forgiveness. In drinking that cup, the disciples entered into a covenant that promised them forgiveness and mandated that they forgive as they were forgiven.

Reflection: Today on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion we commemorate Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem and his passion and death. The liturgy today recalls the beginning of Jesus’ journey to the cross – his riding into the holy city to the acclaim of the crowd and of his followers. But it also emphasizes (in fact more strongly) that the real triumph and glory that Jesus receives comes from the suffering and passion he endured and the ultimate sacrifice – death on a cross.

Each of the Passion accounts uniquely reminds us of how the entire history of the people of God is summarized in this climactic event. Just as people entered covenants and broke them, Jesus is acclaimed with loud hosannas and, shortly thereafter, he is tortured, mocked, abandoned, and put to death.

Today, we again cry “Hosanna!” but, unlike the people of the city of Jerusalem long ago, we need not ask “Who is this?” This is the one who models for us the mystery of life: dying to self so that we might be exalted, raised to new life. This week we celebrate in pointed liturgies the meaning of our whole Christian living: dying to self so that God can raise us too. This dying can be as simple as setting aside the time to participate in all the Triduum liturgies or as demanding as to recognize what in our lives we still need to abandon to be exalted as sons and daughters of God living new life.

Perhaps what we need to abandon is a habit of thinking of ourselves and our own needs first, ahead of others. Perhaps it means not making ourselves the center of attention. Perhaps what we need to abandon is a lot of clutter we’ve accumulated that can tend to take our minds off of what is really important. Perhaps we need to abandon the frenetic pace of our lives and cut some things out so we can concentrate on our loved ones more, or help out those in need more. In all of these cases what we give up – what we abandon – leads to a new lease on life. Most important, it leads to new and deeper relationships and richer experiences. This is all new life for us.

Question for reflection: As I walk with Jesus to his cross, how has my Lenten preparation prepared me to also accept the cross?

Copyright © 2017, Scott W. Eakins. All Rights Reserved.

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