Palm Sunday – Year A
April 02, 2023 – 10:30 AM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community, Palm Springs CA
Matthew 21:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-7 | Psalm 22:8-9;17-20;23-24
Philippians 2:6-11 | Matthew 27:1-54

+ Bless thou, the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts that they may be of profit to us and acceptable to thee, our rock and redeemer.  Amen

We begin Holy Week, also known as Passion Week, today.  The word “passion” means a strong emotion, intense desire, or boundless enthusiasm. But for Christians, we use the word “passion” to describe the immense suffering endured by Jesus during His last days on earth.

Many refer to this Sunday as “Passion Sunday,” which was derived from one of the biblical texts assigned to that day which compared the animal sacrifices offered by ancient Jewish priests with Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.  Today it is called Passion Sunday since the Gospel of the Passion of the Lord is read today.

At Saint Cecilia’s and many other churches, we refer to this Sunday as Palm Sunday since when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The people were so happy to see Him that they took branches from Palm trees and lined the road with them.

So this brings us to the uniqueness of this Sunday:  it is the only time when we have two Gospel readings.  And what a dramatic difference there is between them!  In the first Gospel reading, Jesus is treated like a king, with everyone welcoming Him and proclaiming, “Hosanna!”  But just five days later, the same people are shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” in our second Gospel reading.

The word Paschal is derived from the Greek word Pascha meaning Easter or the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord.  Paschal is an adjective relating to Easter or Passover.

The Paschal mystery is one of the main concepts of the Christian faith.  According to the Compendium of the Catechism of Catholics, the Paschal Mystery of Jesus consists of His passion, death, resurrection, and ascension.  God’s plan was accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus conquered death by rising from the dead. Catholic, Anglican or Episcopal, and Orthodox Christian churches participate in this mystery during Holy Week and celebrate it on Easter,  It is also remembered and celebrated at Eucharist and during Mass on Sunday, which is the Pascha of the week.

Today’s first Gospel from Matthew tells of a celebration.  The palm fronds symbolize peace, while the donkey Jesus rides into Jerusalem symbolizes humility.

Our first reading from Isaiah is one of the Servant Songs of God.  It relates to the humility of Jesus, who does not resist His tormentors before His glorification by God, the Father.

In our second reading from Philippians, Paul also emphasizes Jesus’ humility, stating, “Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Our second Gospel reading today is from the passion narrative according to Matthew.  It describes Jesus’ journey on the last days of His life on earth.  It begins with praises today, Palm Sunday, and ends with the crucifixion.  This narrative is a key element in our understanding of Jesus:  He was fully a human person who suffered immensely and died just as every human does.  But He was still God who lives today as a role model for the entire world.

Let’s look for a moment at the way Jesus handled His life on earth and how He dealt with His crucifixion.  He experienced, according to Pope Francis, the most painful situations of those who love:  betrayal and abandonment.  He was betrayed by the disciple who sold Him out and also by the disciple who denied Him three times.  He was abandoned by His followers, and for a time, He even felt abandoned by God the Father.

The humility of Jesus is in stark contrast to the arrogant display of wealth and power by many of our present-day leaders and rulers.

Jesus could have prevented Himself from being crucified since He is God.  Jesus chose not to save Himself in order to save us and fulfill God the Father’s plan.  Jesus had to die on the cross so that we all could have eternal life with Him.

The three-day period from sundown on Holy Thursday to sundown on Easter Vigil Saturday is referred to as the Triduum.  It is the most solemn part of the liturgical year.  The word “triduum” comes from the Latin words “tris” meaning three, and “dies” meaning day.

As Holy Week progresses, remember to incorporate special prayers into your daily schedule, and you can also make an additional sacrifice by fasting and abstaining from meat on the Triduum days of Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday until noon, in addition to Good Friday’s fast.

May our Holy Week journeys bring us all closer to Christ, our Lord.