Palm Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday. With Palm Sunday we begin the Holy Week and Jesus’ final agonizing journey to the cross. The word passion comes from a Latin word meaning “to suffer,” and we meditatively go with the sufferings of Jesus. In the first part of the liturgy we commemorate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. As Jesus entered into Jerusalem the crowds greeted him with shouts of joy and proclaimed him as the messianic king. They spread their cloaks on the ground and placed the palm branches on the street and shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. The Gospel tell us that Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, as foretold by Prophet Zechariah, and in so doing emphasized the humility that was to characterize the Kingdom he proclaimed. The donkey was a symbol of peace and those who rode upon them proclaimed peaceful intentions.
With the gospel reading, as it narrates the passion of Jesus, we accompany Jesus in his agony and suffering. He goes up to Jerusalem in order to fulfil the Scriptures and to be nailed to the wood of the Cross, the throne from which he will reign forever, drawing to himself humanity of every age and offering to all the gift of redemption. We know from the Gospels that Jesus had set out towards Jerusalem in company with the Twelve, and that little by little a growing crowd of pilgrims had joined them. Saint Mark tells us that as they were leaving Jericho, there was a “great multitude” following Jesus (10:46). The movement towards death begins when Jesus commences his long journey to Jerusalem as told by Luke in Chapter nine. He tells us that Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was his destiny and the place of glorification through his cross.
The passion narrative invites us to ponder anew the story of God’s love shown in Jesus. Jesus says: “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends” (John15:13). At the appointed time Jesus did lay his life for us by dying on the Cross. Love as we all know moves people to do things which outsiders consider crazy, even scandalous. So it is with God. God loves the world that he does not consider what it takes him to save the world and people in it. God holds nothing back in his love for each one of us. In Jesus, he pours himself out for you and for me. When we look at the world God created, it becomes evident he does things in an extravagant scale. The Holy week liturgy enables us to experience in our lives, here and now, the extravagant love of Jesus and helps us to enliven the mystery of love. In other words, we commemorate and relive during this week our own dying and rising in Jesus, which result in our healing, reconciliation, and redemption. Just as Jesus did, we, too, must lay down our lives freely by active participation in the Holy Week liturgies. In so doing, we are allowing Jesus to forgive us our sins, to heal the wounds in us caused by our sins and the sins of others and to transform us more completely into the image and likeness of God. Thus, we shall be able to live more fully the Divine life we received at Baptism. 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. But let us remember that Holy Week can become “holy” for us only if we actively and consciously take part in the liturgies of this week. This is also the week when we should lighten the burden of Christ’s passion as daily experienced by the hungry, the poor, the sick, the homeless, the lonely and the outcast through our corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Passion Sunday liturgy combines contrasting moments, one of glory, the other of suffering: the welcome of Jesus into Jerusalem and the drama of his unjust trial and suffering, culminating in his crucifixion and death.
“Can we see His obedience without being obedient? Certainly not! No one has ever looked upon Our Lord crucified and remained dead or sick. On the other hand, all who have died have done so because they were unwilling to gaze upon Him, just as the Israelites died who were unwilling to gaze upon the serpent that Moses had raised upon the pole.” St. Francis de Sales