Palm Sunday – Year B
March 24, 2024 – 10:30 AM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Deacon Sharon Kay Talley
Mark 11:1-20
Isaiah 50:4-7 | Psalm 22:8-9;17-20;23-24
Philippians 2:6-11 | Mark 15:1-47

 +In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.

Palm Sunday is the prelude to the beginning of the most significant time in Christianity: Holy Week.  On this day, Jesus journeys to Jerusalem in order to fulfill the Scriptures, joined by the company of the Twelve Apostles and eventually crowds of others, commonly referred to as “great multitudes.”  As Jesus enters the city, the pilgrims cut branches from the trees after placing their coats on the colt that was tethered by the gate.  Others spread their cloaks on the road along with the palms as a gesture of a “red carpet” honoring someone by symbolizing the sacred blood shed by Jesus for the salvation of mankind.  The crowds cry out: “Hosanna!  Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.”

According to Pope Benedict and other scholars, this cry of jubilation fulfills the promise of God’s blessing and promise to Abraham, the father of all believers of “I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you…and by you, all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.”  This is the promise Israel has always kept alive.  The one whom the crowd acclaims as the Blessed One or Messiah is also the One in whom all of humanity will be blessed.

Our first reading from Isaiah is a prophetic oracle about the suffering servant, commonly referred to as a “Servant Song”.  The servant is obedient to God despite facing opposition and persecution.  The servant’s willingness to endure suffering for the sake of others symbolizes Jesus’ own sacrificial death on the cross.  This passage highlights the theme of selflessness and humility that is a central factor of Christian faith and speaks to us as a reminder that true greatness comes from serving others.

The reading from Philippians encourages us to follow the example of Jesus, who humbled Himself and became our servant.  This passage emphasizes the importance of humility and selflessness, and challenges us to imitate Jesus in our attitudes and actions.  Paul’s exhortation to be of the same mindset as Jesus and to look out for the interests and needs of others is the message of Palm Sunday, which is a call to service and love of others.

Our Gospel from Mark tells of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah which stated that the Messiah would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver.  Jesus chose to ride a donkey into Jerusalem to signify He was the Messiah as foretold by Zechariah.  Riding a donkey was a humble means of entering Jerusalem compared to a horse which would have been a symbol of war.  Also, Jesus’ choice of a donkey instead of a horse symbolizes His humility and His mission of peace.

The themes of humility, selflessness, and sacrifice in today’s Scripture challenges us to examine our own lives and to consider how we can follow the example of Jesus in our relationships with others.

Influential individuals who have contributed to the field of homiletics include St. Augustine, a fourth-century bishop and theologian, who is known for his insightful sermons and his emphasis on the importance of understanding Scripture in its historical and literary context.  St. John Chrysostom, a fifth-century archbishop of Constantinople, is renowned for his eloquent preaching and his moral exhortations to his congregations.  Martin Luther, a sixteenth-century reformer, is credited with popularizing the practice of preaching the vernacular, or language spoken by ordinary people, and with emphasizing the centrality of Scripture in sermons.

These influential figures have helped shape the practice of preaching over the centuries and have left a lasting impact on the field of homiletics.  Their insights into the interpretation of Scripture, their rhetorical skills, and their pastoral sensitivity have all contributed to the development of effective preaching techniques.  Today, homiletics continues to be a vibrant field of study, with scholars and preachers exploring new ways to communicate the message of the Gospel to contemporary audiences.

In conclusion, the readings for Palm Sunday, Year B provide a rich tapestry of themes that speak to the heart of our faith.  The passages from Isaiah, Philippians, and Mark offer profound insights into the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice, the call to humble service, and the importance of following Jesus’ example in our lives.  All of today’s readings challenge us to live out our faith with humility and selflessness, and to consider how we can embody the values of the Kingdom of God in our daily lives.

So as we reflect on the significance of Palm Sunday and prepare ourselves for Holy Week, may we be inspired to follow Jesus’ example of sacrificial love and to seek and serve others with humility and grace.