Sunday, 10 April 2022 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday marks the beginning of the Holy Week, the most solemn time and occasion in the entire liturgical year, as rightfully we should turn away from all of our other matters and concerns, and spend more time with the Lord, reflecting and immersing ourselves deeply in the mystery and events surrounding Our Lord’s Passion, His suffering, death and eventual glorious resurrection from the dead. On this Sunday, which we celebrate as the Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, we mark the beginning of this very important series of event in the history of our salvation.

For this Sunday marks the moment when the Lord entered into the moment of His Passion, beginning the final stage of His mission and work in this world. The Lord travelled to Judea and Jerusalem for the last time after approximately three years of His ministry, and this time, He knew that this was the moment of His greatest work, when He would have to suffer for the sake of all mankind. But at the same time, He willingly went through with it, obeying perfectly the will of His heavenly Father, and because all of us are truly beloved by Him, so much so that He was willing to endure all that for our sake.

Today we heard first of all the reading of the Gospel at the beginning, in which the celebration of the Lord’s glorious entry to Jerusalem is celebrated. The palms are blessed and we all gather together to celebrate and glorify the Lord, our Saviour and King, Who has come into our midst, as He came to Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of the prophets, that the King would come to His people on a humble and lowly donkey. The Lord Jesus came into Jerusalem upon the glorious cries and shout of joy, of people praising God, with the words, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!’

The people raised palm fronds and branches, putting their cloaks and clothes on the floor, welcoming the Lord with great pomp and circumstance, a welcome fit for a king. And indeed, the Lord is the King of all, and not just the King of Israel but also the King of Kings, the Lord and Master over all of creation. Yet, He came to His people not as a mighty conqueror or warrior, riding on a warhorse or carried on a golden throne, and instead, He came riding on a mere, lowly donkey, an animal which people at that time often derided and under-appreciate, for its demeanour and lack of majesty unlike that of a great horse.

But that was exactly where the real nature of our Lord’s Kingship is revealed to us. Our Lord is the King Who came not to seek to be served but to serve us. He is a King Who did not need to depend on all the pomps and glamour to boost His credentials and power. He is the true Source of all power and authority, the One true King over all the kings and lords of this world, the true Master of all creation. He came to us revealing the nature of His love for each one of us. Here is our Lord and King, Who has humbled Himself and obeyed His Father’s will so perfectly, that even as He entered Jerusalem with such great pomp and circumstance, it was also a reminder of what would happen within just merely within the same week.

For the very same people who had cheered on the Lord that day would likely be the same people who also cried out just a few days later, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ at the instigation of the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council. The same people who welcomed the Lord as their King would also be the same people who denied Him just a few days later and said that they had no king except for Caesar, the Roman Emperor. We can see how quickly everything turned, and all of those things happening within just merely within the span of a week’s time.

That is why today on this Palm Sunday marking the beginning of Holy Week, we celebrate two distinct yet connected events, namely the triumphal entry of the Lord into Jerusalem and the Passion of Our Lord, meaning His suffering and death, the events surrounding the Last Supper and the condemnation of Jesus, and His crucifixion and death on the Cross at Calvary. That is why today we call the celebration as the Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, because by His entry into Jerusalem, the Lord came to finally fulfil the promises He had made to His people, the salvation that He would bring into their midst.

He has already made it known on several prior occasions on what would happen to Him, how He would be rejected and persecuted, condemned to death like a criminal and be raised up before all to see, much like how Moses raised up the bronze serpent that saved many Israelites from the death due to their own sins. Thus, the Lord came to Jerusalem to fulfil everything as foretold and prophesied, that He would, in just a short time after, be raised up on His Cross, at the culmination of His ministry and the Passion He endured for our sake, out of His overflowing love, to save us from certain annihilation and destruction.

For through His death and resurrection, the Lord has established anew the Covenant between us and God, with His Cross as the Bridge that bridges the gap between us sinners and our Lord and Creator. Through sin we have been made unworthy of God and corrupted. We have been separated from God and should have been condemned to eternal damnation. There existed that uncrossable and impassable chasm between God and us, ever since we first fell into the traps of sin. However, God made the impossible into possibility because He Himself built the bridge that helped to reconnect us to God, by His Cross.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on the important events celebrated in this Palm Sunday, the glorious and triumphant Entry to Jerusalem and the Passion of Our Lord and the way of His suffering all the way to the Cross, we are all invited to spend more time this week, during this holiest of all weeks, the Holy Week, to be closer to God, to be more attuned to Him and to walk ever more faithfully in His path. All of us are called to make good use of this time of the Holy Week beginning today to prepare ourselves, if we have not yet done so, to be ever more worthy of celebrating the greatest mysteries of our salvation and liberation from sin.

Let us remind ourselves of the great love that God has constantly shown us, all these while, that He has always willingly reached out to us, embracing us with genuine love and ever-patient compassion and mercy, that despite our constant stubbornness and disobedience, He has come to be with us, dwelling with us and to gather us back to Himself, to be our Lord and King forever. And now, let us also ask ourselves, if we have responded to His love with the same love and the same commitment to the Covenant that He has established with each and every one of us. If we have not done so, then we have to ask ourselves, why we have not done so yet.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, one aspect of the Palm Sunday celebrations that we may easily overlook is the symbolic representation of the Lord riding on the donkey, in which the Lord specifically told His disciples to bring a tied colt that had not been ridden before to be His ride. It was this colt that would become His donkey as mentioned earlier. The tied colt represent the attitude of the people of Israel, who had tied themselves to the old ways, their past sinfulness and refusal to obey the will of God. Meanwhile, the untying of the colt represent the freedom that the Lord brought to them, and a reminder of how He had freed their ancestors from the tyranny of the Egyptians.

At the same time, the colt that had not been ridden before also serves as a the representation of the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people, who had not been burdened by the Law as interpreted by the Pharisees and the generations of the additions that burdened the Jewish people. The Lord taking this colt as His ride itself is according to the Church tradition and understanding serves to remind us that He came into this world to gather us all, His beloved people, to gather all His children, be it Jews or Gentiles. All are beloved equally by God, whether they belong to the race of the people called earlier by God and bound by the Law of Moses, or whether they were outside this chosen race. Everyone through Christ has become one united people in faith, not bound by blood, race, or any other artificial constructs or divisions that we often placed to divide us into ‘us’ and ‘them’.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord and King has brought us the assurance of hope and eternal life. All of us who believe in Him shall experience the fullness of His love and grace, the fullness of His inheritance and glory. All that remains is for us to answer His call and commit ourselves to follow Him. As we raise our blessed palms and praising the Lord, let us ask ourselves, ‘Is the Lord Jesus truly the King of our hearts, our minds, and indeed, the King of our whole entire beings?’ And if we consider Him as our Lord and King, then naturally we have to live our lives in accordance with His ways. Otherwise then we are behaving like hypocrites, who pretend to believe in something and yet act in an entirely different way in life.

As we enter into this solemn occasion of the Holy Week, let us all renew our commitment to the Lord that we may deepen our relationship with Him and spend more quality time with Him. Let us all turn away from our sinful paths and our stubborn attitudes, and let us truly recognise Him as our Lord and King, and welcome Him into our hearts and beings, into our houses and families. Let our Holy Week observance and actions be filled with rich faith and true desire to love the Lord more and more with each and every passing moments. We have to follow the examples set by Our Lord Himself, Who obeyed His Father’s will so perfectly and humbled Himself such that through Him, all of us have gained the assurance of eternal life. Follow Christ, and we will follow Him to eternal life.

Let us all be inspiration for one another in how we live our lives righteously and faithfully from now on, not only for the duration of Holy Week and Easter, but all through to the end of our lives. May God be with us all, and may He strengthen us in our desire to love Him and walk in His path, now and evermore. Amen.

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