Palm Sunday – The Start of Holy Week
With the celebration of Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday, the church begins the celebration of the great Holy Week, the holiest of all the weeks in the Liturgical year. Palm Sunday therefore serves as the gateway to the celebration of the most profound mysteries of our faith as Catholics.Today’s Liturgy connects the exaltation of the Lord, – his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and the humiliation of the same Lord, which is expressed in the Passion narrative. Holy Week invites us to move up to Jerusalem with Jesus so that through the celebration of the mysteries, we could experience the climax of his work as the Messiah sent by God. In the Holy Week we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood on Holy Thursday. During the Mass of the Lord’s supper, we are confronted with Jesus’ “extreme” humility and self-emptying demonstrated in the washing of the feet of his disciples. Prior to this is the celebration of the oils during Chrism Mass.
The bishop, joined by the priests gather at the cathedral to celebrate the unity of the priests with their bishop. Here the bishop blesses three oils that will be used in the administration of the sacraments for the year. On Good Friday we journey with Jesus to calvary as credible witnesses of God’s ultimate love for humanity which was powerfully revealed in the death of His only son. During the Good Friday service, we pay glowing tribute to the wood of the cross, a sign of our redemption. On Holy Saturday mother church awaits in prayer and in silence, for the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. At Easter Night we celebrate the Lord Jesus, the true Light of the world and the Redeemer of humanity. It is indeed, the holiest of all the weeks in the Liturgical year.
The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem demonstrates the path of justice and non-violence that he walked in the years of his public appearance. He did not enter Jerusalem as a warrior riding a horse or a chariot, but he chose to ride on a donkey, a symbol of peace and non-violence. There are some special qualities of donkeys that could serve as inspiration for all of us. Donkeys can carry heavy loads and they are brave animals too. Jesus also carried the heavy load of our sin and transgressions to calvary. Unlike horses that have a strong sense of flight when they face danger, donkeys tend to handle things differently. They will stand their ground and fight against any threats.
Jesus did not run away from pain, humiliation, suffering and death. Horses are fast animals, so any little discomfort will likely make them run away because that’s their best bet for survival. Jesus accepted all the discomfort for our sake and for our salvation. Donkeys are portrayed as stubborn animals because they do not easily run away from danger. They stand for peace or non-violence, resilience, strength, humility, calmness, and diligence. It is therefore no wonder that Jesus chose to ride on a donkey and not on a horse. Which of the qualities listed above are in us as disciples of the Lord? How do we also define ourselves? Do we always flee from pain and suffering? are we resilient and determined in our spiritual life?
Life is a journey, and Christianity is also a way of life. we are naturally pilgrims on the planet destined for eternity with the creator. The roads on which we travel in life are as varied as the people who walk them. What are the names of these roads of life? Can they be named at all, like the streets, the squares, and the places where we live? Jesus chose the path of humility, the path of non-violence, the path obedience, and love. He also travelled on the highway of sacrifice, humiliation, pain, and death on the cross. It would be a meaningful, and a ground-breaking project to define and redefine our ways of life, and the principles that guide our social, economic, and spiritual lives. Defining our ways of life is critical because they determine the kind of future we will ultimately have. Today’s Gospel inspires us to think and reorientate ourselves on the path we wish to chart in life. We need to choose carefully so that we could avoid paths that are “paved” by illusions, fantasies, and false hopes. We need to chart paths that do not run over the “heads” of others, paths that are not defined by arrogance, pride, wealth, corruption, loose life, power, and a misplaces appetite for vain glory. Like Jesus, the son of God, our paths and ways of life should be defined by simplicity of life, obedience to authority, peaceful attitude, self-sacrificing love, spiritual resilience and fortitude, an enhanced credibility of character, as well as the capacity to endure pain and suffering for the sake of Christ. The one who called us also wants us to be like him.
Palm Sunday teaches us that life is not only about the beautiful moments of rejoicing, and joyous singing, but it also consists of difficulties and dark hours of betrayal, rejection, humiliation, and pain. Human life is always a two-way street of days and nights, rainy and dry seasons, laughter and tears, heaven and earth, sad and happy moments, ups and downs, innocence and guilt, life, and death. This is what the Passion Sunday speaks about. With palm branches in hand, we accompany Jesus Christ and acknowledge him as the King of the world. At the same time, we know that we are accompanied by him on the many paths of our own lives. He is always with us in pleasant hours of life as well as in desperate times when we are confronted with our worst ends.
Jesus, the Son of God even accompanies us to where no one else will dare to follow us – the hour of our death. The green palm branches in our hands testify to our hope that God’s love gives us strength in times of suffering and that God’s love is stronger than death. The green palm branches and the songs of praise portray Jesus as the one who did not remain captive in the bowels of the earth but resurrected from the dead. At the time of our own death, it is our strongest belief that he will be there to rescue us from the sting of death and grant us eternal life. This is the message of Palm Sunday.May the Lord guide us through this week and make it a Holy and a gracious Week. Amen!