Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the occasion of the Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, and on this day we begin the solemn celebrations of the Holy Week. This marks the last week in which the culmination of the Lord’s mission in this world. Throughout this season of Lent, we have been preparing ourselves physically and spiritually to celebrate this most important moment in the history of the world and all mankind, the moment when God Himself came to save us.
This day we remember the moment when the Lord came down to Jerusalem hailed as a King, cheered on and praised by many who were there to welcome Him, just as prophesied in the Scriptures by the prophets of the Lord, as the King riding on a donkey entering into His city mentioned by the prophet Zechariah, ‘See Jerusalem, your King is coming to you, righteous and bringing salvation, riding on a humble donkey.’
This was not Jesus’ first time entering Jerusalem, as evidenced from the Gospels that He had been in Jerusalem a few times before, not least when He was consecrated to God at His circumcision and presentation to God, and when He was just twelve years old and was left at the Temple, and on other occasions during His ministry when He came and taught the people at the Temple and other places throughout Jerusalem and Judea.
However, that time, the Lord came to Jerusalem for the one last and final time, when He would embark on the final part of His mission in fulfilling what the Lord had promised us all mankind, His beloved ones, to save us and to rescue us from the bondage of sin and death, from the tyranny and the enslavement of the devil, which He had done by His Passion, that is His suffering and His death on the Cross.
The word Passion itself came from the Latin ‘passus sum’, which means to endure and persevere through something, and in this case, it is the sufferings, the trials and pain that the Lord has suffered and endured, all the humiliation and horrible treatment He experienced at the hands of His enemies and tormentors. All of these He had willingly done, because of the great love that He has, for each and every single one of us, without exception.
We remember that the Lord so loved the world, all of us mankind, that He sent us His only begotten Son, according to the Gospel of St. John, that through Him we are to find salvation and not perish, and through Christ, God’s own Son, we have been brought to the hope of a new and graceful existence, a way to eternal life, and to be reconciled with God, our loving Father, Lord and Creator.
In this we have seen the most wonderful love of God, presented to us through Christ, the One proclaimed as King and Holy One of God by the crowd of people in Jerusalem, welcomed with much festivities and with palm branches, the Son and Heir of David Who has come to claim the kingdom of His forefather David, king of all Israel. Yet, do we all realise that the same crowd who hailed Jesus as King and praised Him wonderfully with palm branches in hand were perhaps the same ones who then cried out, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ in just a few days afterwards?
For those who followed the Lord Jesus, like His disciples and others, it might seem that the moment of the entry to Jerusalem was indeed a triumphant moment as the Lord was hailed as King and many saw Him as someone who could liberate them from the rule of the Romans. But, the moment that they saw the Lord being accused of blasphemy and of sin against God and nation, they turned against Him and became His accusers instead. Those who remained faithful, like the Apostles, hid themselves in fear and were scattered.
The Lord knew exactly what would happen to Him, and He had already mentioned it on several occasions, how He would be betrayed even by those close to Him, one of His own Twelve would be the one to hand Him over to the Sanhedrin, be arrested and then condemned to death, suffering a most painful and humiliating death on the Cross. Knowing all these, the Lord Himself did agonise over it at the Gardens of Gethsemane just prior to His arrest, the weight of the whole responsibility that He was to bear, and yet, He obeyed completely to the will of His heavenly Father.
It is St. Paul spoke of in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Philippi, the Epistle to the Philippians, when he spoke of Christ, obedient unto death on the Cross, humbling Himself and emptying Himself of His divinity and glory, allowing Himself to be scourged, punished and to endure the greatest of pain, sorrow and suffering, bearing all the consequences and punishments that we should have suffered instead because of our many sins.
Christ, Our Lord, is the New Adam, the New Man, Who obeyed God so completely and dedicated Himself so thoroughly, in contrast with the old Adam, and thus, won for us all the victory against sin. While Adam fell into sin and corruption from that sin because he was unable to resist the temptations to sin, and thus fell by his disobedience, it was Christ’s obedience, emptying Himself of all glory, that led to our salvation.
For He offered Himself, as a worthy and perfect sacrifice, both as the High Priest of all, and as the Paschal Lamb to be sacrificed Himself, on the Altar of the Cross. And indeed, the Cross is also the Throne of our King, just as the title placed on the Cross, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, and also thus, King of all of us, King of Kings. There He is, on the Cross, suffering and dying for us, for as our King, He desires nothing less than our happiness and freedom from the tyranny of sin.
It was this that brings us to the Passion of Our Lord, as this Passion, the sufferings Christ suffered for us, shows us all His compassionate love. The word compassion itself again came from the root word of Passion, cum passus sum, meaning to endure and persevere together with us, to be with us through our sufferings, to sympathise with us not just through words but also through concrete action, as He was there up on the Cross, bloody and bruised, shedding His Blood and rending His Body for us all.
Through Christ’s obedience, and by bearing all of our sins to Himself, by uniting us all in our humanity to His own humanity, Christ suffered and died, so that by His death, we may gain access to new and everlasting life. And thus, today this Palm Sunday we mark the beginning of this intense culmination of the Lord’s ministry, the beginning of this great Passion of Our Lord, as we witness and are reminded yet again of all that the Lord had done for our sake, out of enduring love for us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we now enter into this Holy Week proper, are we going to celebrate it solemnly and properly, with clear understanding and appreciation? Or are we going to treat it just like any other week without any distinction? Let us think of how we can make our Holy Week meaningful and good, that we may benefit as much as possible, and become ever closer to God, being more faithful and dedicated to Him.
Let us all focus our attention on the Christ Crucified, and remind ourselves of what a wonderful grace and privilege we have received, to be beloved by God so much that He was willing to do all these for our sake. As we look on our Lord crucified, let us remember that His every wounds are our sins, our transgressions, our wickedness, and all that we have done which were in contradiction to the way of the Lord.
Christ endured all that pain and suffering, brothers and sisters in Christ. Are we still insisting on following the wrong path in life, in doing what is against God, and inflicting those wounds that we have seen on our Lord? The Lord did indeed suffer, in His humanity, and He did indeed die, suffering all these so that we may live. Let us all appreciate everything that He had done for us, and strive to do our best in life to be more and more committed, to be closer to God and to love Him more.
Let us all enter into this most solemn time of the Holy Week with clear focus on the Lord, on His Passion and suffering, His love and the great compassion He has shown to each and every one of us. Let us all be exemplary in our faith and be good role model to one another so that we may help our fellow brothers and sisters to find our way together to the salvation and eternal life in God. May God, our Crucified Christ, Our most loving Saviour, be with us all as we journey through this Holy Week, that we may come to share ever more deeply in the mysteries of His Passion, His suffering, death and Resurrection. Amen.