Sunday, 2 April 2023 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, also known as Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord marks the beginning of the Holy Week and the entry into this most solemn and important period of time when we commemorate the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the whole world, the moment when He suffered for us all, bearing all the burdens of our sins and mistakes, our faults and iniquities, all the wickedness and evils we have committed, so that by His most generous and selfless love, shown to us in His loving sacrifice on the Cross, all of us may be saved and be brought into the assurance of eternal life and glory with Him. The Lord has willingly done all of these, in obedience to the will of His heavenly Father so that by His sacrifice offered most worthily on our behalf, each and every one of us may find the path to eternal life by the full reconciliation and the New and Eternal Covenant that He made, as our Eternal High Priest, all of which we commemorate during this most Holy Week.

In our Gospel reading today, which was read at the beginning of the Holy Mass, we heard the passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew detailing the time when the Lord was about to enter into the city of Jerusalem for His upcoming Passion as we all certainly well know of, that moment when the Lord rode on a donkey and welcomed into the city of Jerusalem with the people waving palm branches and putting their clothes for Him to pass through, as if He is the King that came in glory to enter into His City. This is why we call this Sunday’s celebration as Palm Sunday in the first place. It marks first of all the commemoration of the glorious entry of the King of Kings and the rightful King of Israel, the Son and Heir of David, entering into the City of His glorious inheritance and dominion, as the Lord has revealed in advance through His prophets and messengers, like that of the prophet Zechariah, who prophesied that the King and Messiah would come to His City riding on a humble donkey.

All of that had been fulfilled in the actions of the Lord Jesus that day, Who chose a donkey with its colt, or its young one, which had not borne any burden before. The donkey that had been tied on the pole itself is rich in symbolism, as it represents the first-called among God’s people, the Israelites, that had been burdened by many of the sins of their ancestors and by their enslavement in the hands of many rulers and oppressors, and the Lord freeing the donkey from its bondage has the symbolic meaning of His coming that is meant to bring true freedom to the people of God, beginning with the descendants of Israel, and then the colt, which represents the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people, who followed along as the Lord rode on the donkey, representing His dominion and rule over not only the Jewish people, the descendants of the Israelites, but also over the Gentiles and hence over the whole world. His Kingship is Universal and inclusive, and all encompassing instead of just ruling over the Jewish people only.

Then, there is the symbolism of the donkey itself, as a humble beast of burden typically used as the means to carry the weight of cargo and objects that were not usually meant for carrying a human being, less so for One Who is a King, and less still supposedly for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the King of all the whole Universe, coming upon His City and people. Yet, the fact that the Lord rode into Jerusalem on a humble donkey and not on a mighty warhorse or other extravagant rides that other worldly rulers often rode on, highlighted the true nature of His Kingship and His mission in this world. He did not come to this world to conquer and to destroy, unlike what earthly and worldly kings usually do, and He did not come to lead His people in a war of liberation and resistance against the Romans or any others, unlike what many of the Jewish people in the past often mistakenly believed.

Instead, He came into this world and into our midst to bring His Peace upon us, to show us the love that He has always had for us from the very beginning, real and tangible in the flesh. He came into this world to serve and not to be served, to reach out to the least amongst us, and to every single one of us without exception. He does not discriminate against us, and He wants each and every one of us to be reconciled with Him, and that is why He came into our midst, to dwell and walk amongst us, and to show us His most generous love, so much so that He was willing to pay the ultimate price in order to do so. And that leads us to the second part of our celebration today, that as we proceed triumphantly with Christ to the Altar, entering with Him to the Holy City of Jerusalem, we then enter into a new phase of this Sunday’s events, as we remember what would take place within merely days after that glorious event.

That is when we remember how it was likely that many of the same people who have cried out with great joy and enthusiasm, ‘Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord’, were the same ones who later on cried out on Good Friday, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ and ‘We have no King but Caesar!’. Through that we can see just how the mood and the attitude of the people so quickly changed within just a matter of a few days, from one of jubilation and adoration to one of disgust and rejection. No doubt that there must have been some coercion, persuasion and jockeying going around back then, as the members of the Jewish High Council or the Sanhedrin, which were mostly against the Lord and some were even openly hostile, must have encouraged, coerced and persuaded many of the people that the Lord Jesus was the False Messiah and a traitor to the Jewish nation and people, for His supposedly blasphemous teaching and actions against God.

All of these had been predicted beforehand by God Himself as He revealed it through His prophets, in what we heard from our first reading today, as we progress from the glorious procession of palms into Jerusalem towards the true nature of our Lord’s ministry and what He would do for each and every one of us. The prophet Isaiah spoke curiously on the Suffering Servant, the One Whom God would send to be with His people, and how this Servant of God would suffer and endure grievous beating and hardships, torture and trials, as He obeyed perfectly the will of the One Who had sent Him to us. He would be humiliated and made to suffer for the sins of the people of God, a reading that we shall further explore on Good Friday, in which that passage refer to the same Servant, Who would be lifted up high and exalted, that by His wounds and stripes, all of us would be healed, a clear reference to what the Lord Jesus Himself would do for our sake.

We heard how the Lord humbled Himself and emptied Himself of all glory, as we heard from our second reading passage from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Philippi. The Apostle St. Paul spoke of how the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, obeyed His Father’s will so perfectly, and humbled Himself such that He was willing to endure a most humiliating and painful death on the Cross, so that by His most selfless offering of Himself, and by His obedience, He became the Source of Hope and Salvation for all of us mankind, for the whole entire world. Through Christ, all of us have become sharers and partakers in the New and Eternal Covenant that He has established with all of us, as He is the Mediator of this Covenant, through which He has brought us into full reconciliation between us and the Lord God, our loving Father and Creator.

This is what we have essentially heard through the long Passion narrative this Sunday, reminding us all of everything that Our Lord had done for our sake, in Him enduring the worst of punishments for us. He has not ignored or abandoned our plight and suffering, and by His ever enduring love and compassion towards us, He willingly took upon His shoulders and embraced us fully, and in His sharing of our human nature and existence, He took it upon Himself to offer on our behalf a most worthy offering, the offering of His own Most Precious Body and Most Precious Blood, as the Paschal Lamb of God, crushed and sacrificed for us, that He offered Himself on the Altar of His Cross at Calvary, He brought upon us the certainty of salvation and eternal life. All of us who believe in Him and in the truth that He has revealed to us, will receive from Him the gift of everlasting grace and life.

Thus, this Sunday as we mark the beginning of this most Holy Week, the Week celebrating and commemorating the most important events in the history of our salvation, let us all therefore immerse ourselves more deeply into the Lord’s Passion and all that He had done for us, as we remember how He began the final week of His most important mission, that is to offer and sacrifice Himself for our sake. Let us all remember the actions of our great and most loving King, Who has come into our midst to be with us, and to redeem all of us. Let us remember how He came humbly riding on a donkey into Jerusalem, hailed and adored by the people only to be cast out and rejected just barely a few days later, betrayed by His own disciple and condemned to death for sins and faults that He Himself did not commit. Yet, He had borne all of that upon Himself because He loves each and every one of us, and He wanted that by His selfless offering and sacrifice, and by His suffering and death, all of us may be saved, and has sure path to eternal life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore as we enter into this most solemn and important week, the holiest of all the weeks of the whole entire year, let us all spend some time to reflect on our Lenten journey thus far and how we have lived our lives in this world. Lent is a time for us to rediscover our true path in life towards God and to recalibrate and reconnect ourselves with God and His path especially if we have erred and wandered down the wrong path. And as we enter into this Holy Week of Our Lord’s Passion, each one of us are called to remind ourselves why our Lord has done all these for us, and that again, first of all, is because of His love for us. We have sinned against the Lord, and we should have deserved damnation and destruction for our faults and sins, and yet, God willingly came to us, and through His Passion, He showed us the path to a new life with Him, and by His sufferings, He shouldered the punishments of our own sins meant for us.

Let us all remember how God has been so patient with us and how much He has loved us, that He came into our midst to live amongst us and to suffer with us and for us. Let us all no longer harden our hearts and minds, and be no longer stubborn as many of our predecessors who have frequently and constantly rejected the Lord and His generous offer of love and mercy. Let us all look upon the Crucified Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, and see His loving gaze, ever always directed at us, so that we may indeed be ashamed by our many sins and wrongdoings, all of which had inflicted the many injuries and wounds that He had to painfully bear for our sake, and yet which He bore willingly and lovingly nonetheless because He truly and really loves us very much. Therefore, let us all deepen our appreciation of everything that Our Lord and Saviour had done for us, and deepen our relationship with Him.

May the Lord, our King and Saviour, our High Priest and our Paschal Lamb, He Who has done so much for us for our salvation, continue to be with us and guide us patiently as He has always done, so that we may grow ever more in faith in Him, and learn to love Him more and more, especially as we enter into this time of most solemn commemoration of His Passion, His suffering and death during this Holy Week and the upcoming Easter Triduum. Today, let us not just acclaim Him with our words and mouth only, but let us all acclaim Him from deep within our hearts. May He help us all to remain focused on Him and may He empower each every one of us so that we may persevere ever more against the many challenges, trials and temptations in life. May God bless us all in our every good works, efforts and endeavours, so that in everything we do, we may truly be ever more faithful to Him and be exemplary role models and good examples for others to follow, that through us and our actions, many more may come to believe in God and be saved. Wishing all of us a most blessed, holy and fruitful Holy Week. Amen.