Palm/Passion Sunday by Father Peter Chinnappan
Palm/Passion Sunday [April 14] Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Lk 22:14 -23:56-L/19
Introduction: The Church celebrates today as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday Today’s liturgy combines contrasting moments of glory (“Hosanna”) and suffering (“Crucify him”) – the royal welcome given to Jesus by his followers and the drama of his unjust trial culminating in his crucifixion. Holy Week challenges us to remember and relive the events which brought about our redemption and salvation, to appreciate gratefully the price Jesus paid for our salvation, and to return God’s love for us (expressed through the suffering and death of Jesus), by loving others. The meditation on these Paschal mysteries should enable us to do our own dying to sin and rising with Jesus, which will result in our healing, reconciliation, and redemption. Proper participation in the Holy Week liturgy will also deepen our relationship with God, increase our Faith, and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus.
Scripture lessons: Today’s first reading, found in the prophecy of Isaiah, is called the third Servant Song. Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 22) expresses Jesus’ agony on the Cross and His unfailing trust in His Heavenly Father. The second reading, taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, is an ancient Christian hymn representing a very early Christian understanding of who Jesus is, and of how his mission saves us from sin and death. The first part of today’s Gospel (Lk 19:28-40) describes the royal reception which Jesus received from his admirers. They paraded with him for two miles, from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. In the second part of today’s Gospel (Lk 22:14—23:56), we listen to the Passion of Christ according to Luke. We are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the story like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience and condemned Jesus to death on the cross, Herod who ridiculed Jesus and the leaders of the people who preserved their positions by getting rid of Jesus. The reading reminds us that Jesus died for our sins.
“Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.” Constantine the Great was the first Christian Roman emperor. His father Constantius I who succeeded Diocletian as emperor in 305 A.D. was a pagan with a soft heart for Christians. When he ascended the throne, he discovered that many Christians held important jobs in the government and in the court. So, he issued an executive order to all those Christians: “Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.” The great majority of Christians gave up their jobs rather than disowning Christ. Only a few cowards gave up their religion rather than lose their jobs. The emperor was pleased with the majority who showed the courage of their convictions and gave their jobs back to them saying: “If you will not be true to your God you will not be true to me either.” Today we join the Palm Sunday crowd in spirit to declare our loyalty to Christ and fidelity to his teachings by actively participating in the Palm Sunday liturgy. As we carry the palm leaves to our homes, we are declaring our choice to accept Jesus as the King and ruler of our lives and our families. Let us express our gratitude to Jesus for redeeming us by his suffering and death, through our active participation in the Holy Week liturgy and our reconciliation with God and His Church, repenting of our sins and receiving God’s pardon and forgiveness from Jesus through His Church.
Life messages: Let us try to answer five questions today: 1) Does Jesus weep over my sinful soul as he wept over Jerusalem at the beginning of his Palm Sunday procession? 2) Am I a barren fig tree? God expects me to produce fruits of holiness, purity, justice, humility, obedience, charity, and forgiveness. Do I? Or do I continue to produce bitter fruits of impurity, injustice, pride, hatred, jealousy and selfishness? 3) Will Jesus have to cleanse my heart with his whip? Jesus cannot tolerate the desecration of the temple of his Holy Spirit in me by my addiction to uncharitable, unjust and impure thoughts words and deeds; neither is Jesus pleased by my calculation of loss and gain in my relationship with God. 4) Do I welcome Jesus into my heart? Am I ready to surrender my life to him during this Holy Week and welcome him into all areas of my life as my Lord and Savior? The palms should remind us that Christ is our King and the true answer to our quest for happiness and meaning in life. 5) Am I like the humble donkey that carried Jesus? Let us carry and radiate Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness and sacrificial service to our families, and communities.