Sunday, 5 April 2020 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers ands sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we begin the observation of the Holy Week, the holiest and pinnacle of the liturgical celebrations of the entire year, as we enter into the most solemn and important moments in the history of the salvation of mankind and the world. On this day we enter and experience together this very moment when the Lord finally put into place everything that He has promised to us, His people, heading to Jerusalem where He knew that the moments His Passion, suffering and death would come.

On this Palm Sunday, we heard two very discordant accounts from the time of the Lord’s triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem, as well as from the time when He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, arrested, put on trial, handed over to the Romans, condemned to death and was crucified as a criminal. This represents a very distinct extremes between the glory and triumphant nature of the entrance procession into Jerusalem and the humiliating and painful nature of the crucifixion of the Lord at Calvary. And all these happened within just the span of a few days.

In our Gospel today read just before the Procession with the blessed palms, we heard of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of the prophet Zechariah, speaking of the coming of the King on a donkey into His city. The people welcomed the Lord and sang praises, putting their garments and clothes on the ground for the Lord and His donkey to pass through on, and waving palm branches and leaves, a welcome truly fit for a great King.

The crowds sang ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ loudly, referring to the descent of the Lord Jesus from the much revered King David of Israel, the glorious kingdom and time of his kingship of old. The Lord Jesus had His descent as the Heir of David, through St. Joseph, His foster-father and also legal father, and therefore, Jesus is the One Whom God had promised to David that through Him, the kingdom and house of David would be glorious and strong forever. The Lord came to Jerusalem, the city of the King to claim His place as the one true King of Israel.

Certainly at that time, some people must have thought that Jesus would restore the old kingdom of Israel, defeat and drive out the Romans who were the overlords of Judea, and reign in a new era of glorious kingdom like that of the old kingdom of David and Solomon. Some of the people had tried to make Jesus as their King on several occasions, riding on the popular sentiment and the Lord’s immense following and popularity, only for the Lord to rebuff them by withdrawing every time they attempted to do so.

But as we then proceed into our first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the prophecy of the Suffering Servant, of Whom the prophet Isaiah spoke about as One Who would bear the suffering and the punishments for our sins and faults. This is the revelation of the true purpose and mission of the Messiah’s coming, that His Kingship is achieved through not the glory of the world but through the glory of the Cross. He would have to suffer as part of God’s plan to save us mankind.

And this is what St. Paul spoke about in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Philippi, in our second reading today, as he spoke of the Christ, the Son of God Who humbled Himself completely and entirely, emptying Himself of His divinity and wonders, and willingly took up the Cross of suffering, filled with the mighty burdens and punishments due for our many and innumerable sins. He bore all of these on His own shoulders, and endured all of the pain, bitterness, rejections and ridicules because of His great and enduring love for each and every one of us.

God has loved us all so much that He was willing to do all these for our sake, and He endured all the humiliations as described throughout our Passion reading today, detailing how He was treated, ridiculed, condemned by His enemies and all those who sought to denounce and sentence Him to death. He was handed to the Romans, and rejected by the whole people who chose a criminal instead of Him to be freed. He was tortured and made to suffer such indignity, and endured the excruciating pain of nails driven into His hands and feet.

All these were what the Lord had been willing to go through for our sake. He has always been so patient and been so loving towards us. That is why today, at the beginning of this Holy Week, we are brought to focus our attention to the Lord’s Passion, His ever so great and wonderful love for each and every one of us that He was willing to go through all the sufferings for us. His love is so great that although He is King, but He desires not His own glory but instead, our own glorification, through His sacrifice on the Cross.

For through the Cross, by His obedience in His Father’s will, the Lord our Saviour has restored us to the glory that was ours before we fell into sin. He wants us to be reconciled to Him and to receive His saving grace. Unfortunately, it is often us who have been stubborn and rejected His generous offer for mercy and love. We have been like those who enthusiastically welcomed the Lord on Palm Sunday, and yet, shouted ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ on Good Friday just a few days later. We are also often like Judas Iscariot, who outwardly had faith in the Lord and yet, betrayed Him in the end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we begin this solemn celebration of the Holy Week, let us make good use of this time and opportunities provided to us that we may redirect our lives and our focus and attention back towards God. This Holy Week, let us all spend more time with God in prayer, deepening our devotion through works of charity and through reading the Scriptures with greater clarity of purpose in mind. Let us all also spend some thoughts for all those who are suffering, sick and dying during these days, unable to rejoice and celebrate as how they have usually done.

Many of us these days are unable to celebrate as we usually do, and in many parts of the world, due to the current pandemic, the celebrations of the Masses publicly have been suspended, extending through to the Holy Week and possibly even through the Easter season. And even for some of us and our communities, much of this season of Lent had indeed been a time of spiritual desolation and sadness, as we have been in many ways deprived either the regular celebration of the Mass or access to the Eucharist.

However, this is probably a good time and reminder for us all that amidst all these darkness and uncertainties, all the despairs and terrible things all around us, we still have that very one hope, the hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, our King and Saviour. That is why we should still celebrate this Holy Week with much enthusiasm and faith, and we should try our best to bring forth this spirit of faith and enthusiasm to our fellow brothers and sisters. For we all should know that sin and darkness mo longer have permanent hold on us, as Christ has promised us freedom and liberation from these through His own suffering and death on the Cross.

Let us therefore enter into the Holy Week with an open heart and mind, welcoming the Lord to enter into our hearts and into our beings as gloriously and joyfully as the people of Jerusalem had welcomed Him with branches of palms and with great rejoicing and reverence. Let us all welcome the Lord into our beings that from now on, He may truly dwell in us, and be enthroned in our hearts, in our minds and in our whole beings, and that we may focus ourselves on Him from now on.

May God bless us all, and may He guide us through this blessed and most wonderful time of the Holy Week, that we may be filled with much faith and we may make good use of the time provided to us, to help us to draw ever closer to God, and to receive the fullness of God’s saving grace, forgiven from our sins and trespasses. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.