(Holy Week) Sunday, 9 April 2017 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the beginning of the Holy Week, the very significant and indeed holiest moment in the whole of the liturgical year, when we are commemorating and celebrating the final events in the earthly life, work and ministry of Jesus, the last week of His time when He endured all that He had to endure in order to fulfil God’s plan for our salvation to its perfection.

And it all began with the triumphal entry of Jesus into the Holy City of Jerusalem, when He was glorified and praised as a triumphant King, coming to enter His city, the city where God had made His dwelling, and He came riding on a donkey, much as the prophet Zechariah prophesied about the Messiah and King Who would come on the donkey into the city, thus fulfilling completely what God had promised His people.

And that is why we have the blessing of the palms and the procession of the palms, to commemorate that moment when the people of Jerusalem welcomed the Lord Jesus coming into the city, singing loudly and courageously, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!” They were welcoming the Messiah Who came to take up possession of His kingdom and His city, as the Heir of David, to whom God had promised that his kingdom would last forever.

Yet, we may wonder, why is it that we begin with the Gospel reading at the start of the celebration of the Holy Mass at the triumphal procession, and then suddenly, as we progress on to the readings, we then read about the Lord and Messiah Who would suffer for the sake of all people, as mentioned in the book of the prophet Isaiah, speaking about the suffering Servant of God, Who would offer Himself to be tortured and punished for our faults.

And in the second reading, in the famous passage from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians, the Apostle wrote about how Jesus had been exalted and given Name above every other names, because He has obeyed the will and the commands of His Father perfectly and completely, by taking up His cross and emptying Himself, allowing Himself to be the perfect sacrifice of love, to be the ultimate source of salvation for all of us mankind.

And we end up with the long Passion reading, when we heard one of the three accounts of the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, which for this year is taken from the Gospel of St. Matthew. We heard how the Lord Jesus spent the last day from the time of the Last Supper, to His agony in the garden of Gethsemane, to His betrayal by Judas Iscariot, to His trial before the chief priests and before Herod, and how then He was tortured and put to death by false accusations before Pontius Pilate the governor of Judea.

We heard how the Lord Jesus took up His cross, having to walk the path of suffering from Jerusalem to the hill of Calvary among two other criminals. He was condemned to death like a criminal even though He was completely innocent. People mourned for Him, while many others mocked Him, jeered Him and rejected Him, throwing insults after insults, spittle after spittle on the way, and He ascended the cross, nailed onto it at Calvary, and died for all of us.

Why is it that a people who have greeted and welcomed the Lord Jesus as King and cried out, “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!”, then within just a time span of less than one week, were also the ones who cried out, “Crucify Him!” and “We have no king but Caesar?” That is because we mankind, by our nature, are weak, brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all weak and vulnerable, easily falling into temptation.

Through falsehoods and false promises of pleasure and goodness, the devil, our great enemy, are planting in us the seeds of doubt, the seeds of evil and wickedness, and all these resulted in our lack of faith. Thus, the same people who believed in the Lord Jesus as Saviour and Master, easily turned away from Him and rejected Him, when they saw Him fallen from grace and arrested by His enemies. Those who would once call Him friends, left Him behind and abandoned Him.

Indeed, His own disciples abandoned Him when He was arrested, as they cowered in fear and were at loss on what to do. And one of His own twelve most trusted disciples betrayed Him for a mere thirty pieces of silver, tempted by the allure of money and worldly possessions. This is what had caused many of us to sin as well, to fall into darkness and wickedness.

Through this, all of us must realise that each and every one of us have sinned, be it small or great sin, but all of us have disobeyed God. At one point or more in our lives, we have walked away from our God, abandoned Him, betrayed Him and left Him behind for the pursuit of money, worldly temptations and all the false allures of the devil, which he had placed in our path to make us stumble, as what had indeed happened to all of us.

All of us have acted as the people of Jerusalem, as the disciples of Jesus, as Judas Iscariot, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. We have been like them, in how we welcome the Lord and shout His Name for joy, praising Him and glorifying Him, but then, very quickly, when temptations come, when doubt entered into our hearts, when fear and other things arose, we abandoned the Lord and left Him behind.

Let us reflect, brothers and sisters in Christ, on what had happened throughout this Holy Week, this time when Jesus our Lord did all that He had done for the sake of our salvation. We have been the ones to condemn the Lord to His death, by our sins and by our faults. Yet many of us do not realise this fact and continue to carry on with our lives as if nothing had happened. We have often taken the love of God for granted.

If all of us can just come to the realisation that each and every sin that we ever committed in life are the wounds and the sufferings of Christ, Who has suffered and died for us, then all of us would have been very ashamed and would not commit any more sins. But the reality is that many of us have been oblivious and ignorant to the sins that we have committed, and some of us have even been desensitised to sin, because we have committed so many sins, that it feels just normal for us to sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend some time today, at the beginning of the Holy Week, to reflect on how fortunate we are, to have One Who loved each and every one of us so much that He was willing to give up His own life for us, He Who was willing to forgive us our transgressions and sins. He has called us to accept His mercy and to share in the burden of His cross, if we believe in Him and what He had done for us.

The question is, are we willing to be forgiven? Are we willing to accept God’s mercy and forgiveness? Are we willing to change ourselves and sin no more? The disciples may indeed have abandoned the Lord, but they all, except Judas Iscariot, turned back to God and sought His forgiveness. Peter, who denied Jesus three times, confessed his devotion and love before the Lord three times, as a sign of his atonement and commitment to be with God. Judas did not repent and change his ways, and that was why Satan used him as a tool to try and undo the good works of Jesus by betraying Him. God gave him chance but he refused to take it up.

Shall we choose to be like Judas or to be like the other disciples of Christ? That is a question that we need to ask ourselves. Let us ponder on this as we go on throughout this Holy Week celebrations, that whatever we do, we may do it with understanding and that we may benefit from them. May all of us find our way to the salvation in our God, and share in the love and mercy with which He had rescued us from death because of our sins.

May the Lord, our loving God, Who suffered and died for us, taking our place in suffering and bearing upon Himself our crosses, bless us all and keep us all in His grace and love at all times. May we all draw closer to Him and to His love, and may we find succour and redemption by the loving sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, and accept wholeheartedly the love which He had given us all. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

(Holy Week) Sunday, 9 April 2017 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Passion Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Matthew 26 : 14 – Matthew 27 : 66

Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “How much will you give me if I hand Him over to you?” They promised to give him thirty pieces of silver, and from then on, he kept looking for the best way to hand Jesus over to them.

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?” Jesus answered, “Go into the city, to the house of a certain man, and tell him, ‘The Master says : My hour is near, and I will celebrate the Passover with My disciples in your house.'”

The disciples did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, Jesus sat at table with the Twelve. While they were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you : one of you will betray Me.” They were deeply distressed, and they asked Him, one after the other, “You do not mean me, do You, Lord?”

He answered, “The one who dips his bread with Me will betray Me. The Son of Man is going as the Scripture says He will. But alas for that one who betrays the Son of Man : better for him not to have been born.” Judas, who was betraying Him, also asked, “You do not mean me, Master, do You?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said a blessing and broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take and eat : this is My Body.” Then He took a cup, and gave thanks, and passed it to them, saying, “Drink this, all of you, for this is My Blood, the Blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Yes, I say to you : From now on I will not taste the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink new wine with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

After singing psalms of praise, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will falter tonight because of Me, and all will fall. For the Scripture says : I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered. But after My resurrection, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

Peter responded, “Even though all doubt You and fall, I will never fall.” Jesus replied, “Truly I say to you : this very night before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said, “Though I have to die with You, I will never deny You.” And all the disciples said the same.

Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with Him, and He began to be filled with anguish and distress. And He said to them, “My soul is full of sorrow, even to death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.”

He went a little farther and fell to the ground, with His face touching the earth, and prayed, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup away from Me. Yet not what I want, but what You want.” He went back to His disciples and found them asleep, and He said to Peter, “Could you not stay awake with Me for even an hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you may not slip into temptation. The spirit indeed is eager, but the body is weak.”

He again went away, and prayed, “Father, if this cup cannot be taken away from Me without My drinking it, let Your will be done.” When He came back to His disciples, He again found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. He left them again, and went to pray the third time, saying the same words.
Then He came back to His disciples and said to them, “You can sleep on now and take your rest! The hour has come, and the Son of Man will be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look : the betrayer is here!” Jesus was still speaking when Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, who had been sent by the chief priests and the Jewish authorities.

The traitor had arranged a signal for them : “The One I kiss, He is the Man; arrest Him.” Judas went directly to Jesus and said, “Good evening, Master”; and he gave Him a kiss. But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then they laid hands on Jesus and arrested Him.

One of those who were with Jesus drew his sword, and struck at the servant of the High Priest, cutting off his ear. So Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place, for he who uses the sword will perish by the sword. Do you not know that I could call on My Father, and He would at once send Me more than twelve legions of Angels. If Scripture says that this has to be, should it not be fulfilled?”

At that moment, Jesus said to the crowd, “Why do you come to arrest Me with swords and clubs, as if I were a robber? Day after day I was seated among you teaching in the Temple, yet you did not arrest Me. But all this has come about in fulfilment of what the Prophets said.” Then all His disciples deserted Him and fled.

Those who had arrested Jesus brought Him to the house of the High Priest Caiaphas, where the teachers of the Law and the elders were assembled. Peter followed Jesus at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the High Priest; he entered and sat with the guards, waiting to see the end. The chief priests and the whole Supreme Council needed some false evidence against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death.

But they were unable to find any, even though false witnesses came forward. At last, two men came up and declared, “This Man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'” The High Priest then stood up and asked Jesus, “Have You no answer at all? What is this evidence against You?” But Jesus kept silent.

So the High Priest said to Him, “In the Name of the living God, I command You to tell us : Are You the Messiah, the Son of God?” Jesus answered, “It is just as you say. I tell you more : from now on, you will see the Son of Man, seated at the right hand of God most powerful, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the High Priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has blasphemed. What more evidence do we need? You have just heard these blasphemous words. What is your decision?” They answered, “He must die!” Then they began to spit on Jesus and slap Him, while others hit Him with their fists, saying, “Messiah, prophesy! Who hit You?”

Meanwhile, as Peter sat outside in the courtyard, a young servant-girl of the house said to Him, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before everyone, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” And as Peter was going out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and told the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Peter denied it again with an oath, swearing, “I do not know that Man.”

After a little while, those who were standing there approached Peter and said to him, “Of course you are one of the Galileans : your accent gives you away.” Peter began justifying himself with curses and oaths, protesting that he did not know Jesus. Just then a cock crowed. And Peter remembered the words of Jesus, “Before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went away weeping bitterly.

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people met together to look for ways of putting Jesus to death. They had Him bound, and led Him away to be handed over to Pilate, the governor. When Judas, the traitor, realised that Jesus had been condemned, he was filled with remorse, and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying an innocent Man to death.”

They answered, “What does it matter to us? That is your concern.” So throwing down the money in the Temple, he went away and hanged himself. The priests picked up the money and said, “This money cannot be put into the Temple treasury, for this is the price of blood.” So they met together, and decided to buy the Potter’s Field with the money, and to make it a cemetery for foreigners. That is why, to this day, that place has been called Field of Blood.

So what the prophet Jeremiah said was fulfilled : They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price which the Sons of Israel set in Him, and they gave them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord commanded me. Jesus stood before the governor, who asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.”

The chief priests and the elders of the people accused Him, but He made no answer. Pilate said to Him, “Do you hear all the charges they bring against You?” But He did not answer even a single question so that the governor wondered greatly.

At Passover, it was customary for the governor to release any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a well-known prisoner called Barabbas. When the people had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Whom do you want me to set free : Barabbas, or Jesus called the Messiah?” For he realised that Jesus had been handed over to him out of envy.

As Pilate was sitting in court, his wife sent him this message, “Have nothing to do with that holy Man. Because of Him, I had a dream last night that disturbed me greatly.” But the chief priests and the elders of the people stirred up the crowds, to ask for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus. 

When the governor asked them again, “Which of the two do you want me to set free?” they answered, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “And what shall I do with Jesus called the Messiah?” All answered, “Crucify Him!” Pilate insisted, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted louder, “Crucify Him!”

Pilate realised that he was getting nowhere, and that there could be a riot. He then asked for water, and washed his hands before the people, saying, “I am not responsible for His Blood, it is your doing.” And all the people answered, “Let His Blood be upon us and upon our children.” Then Pilate set Barabbas free, but had Jesus scourged, and handed Him over to be crucified.

The Roman soldiers took Jesus into the palace of the governor and the whole troop gathered around Him. They stripped Him and dressed Him in a purple military cloak. Then, twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head, and placed a reed in His right hand. They knelt before Jesus and mocked Him, saying, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, took the reed from His hand and struck Him on the head with it.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and dressed Him in His own clothes again, and led Him out to be crucified. On the way they met a man from Cyrene called Simon, and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they reached the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with gall. Jesus tasted it but would not drink it.

There they crucified Him, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what each one should take. Then they sat down to guard Him. The statement of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” They also crucified two bandits with Him, one on His right hand and one on His left.

People passing by shook their heads and insulted Him, saying, “Aha! You Who destroy the Temple and in three days rebuild it, save Yourself – if You are God’s Son – and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law mocked Him.

They said, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let the King of Israel now come down from His cross and we will believe in Him. He trusted in God; let God rescue Him if God wants to, for He Himself said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him insulted Him.

From midday, darkness fell over the whole land until mid-afternoon. At about three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabbacthani?” which means : My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? As soon as they heard this, some of the bystanders said, “He is calling for Elijah.”

And one of them ran, took a sponge and soaked it in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave Him to drink. Others said, “Leave Him alone, let us see whether Elijah comes to His rescue.” Then Jesus cried out again in a loud voice and gave up His Spirit.

Just then the curtain of the Temple sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after the resurrection of Jesus, entered the Holy City, and appeared to many.

The captain and the soldiers who guarded Jesus were greatly terrified, and when they saw the earthquake and all that had happened, and said, “Truly, this was God’s Son.” There were also some women there, who watched from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had seen to His needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

It was now evening, and there came a wealthy man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the Body of Jesus, and the governor ordered that the Body be given to him. So Joseph took the Body of Jesus, wrapped it in a clean linen sheet, and laid it in his own new tomb, which had been cut out of the rock.

Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and left. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there in front of the tomb. On the following day, the day after the Preparation for the Sabbath observance, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate and said to him, “Sir, we remember that when that Impostor was still alive, He said, ‘I will rise after three days.'”

“Therefore, have His tomb secured until the third day, lest His disciples come and steal the body, and say to the people : He is risen from the dead. This would be a worse lie than the first.” Pilate answered them, “You have soldiers, go and take all the necessary precautions.” So they went to the tomb and secured it, sealing the stone, and placed it under guard.

Alternative reading (shorter version)
Matthew 27 : 11-54

Jesus stood before the governor, who asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.” The chief priests and the elders of the people accused Him, but He made no answer. Pilate said to Him, “Do you hear all the charges they bring against You?” But He did not answer even a single question so that the governor wondered greatly.

At Passover, it was customary for the governor to release any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a well-known prisoner called Barabbas. When the people had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Whom do you want me to set free : Barabbas, or Jesus called the Messiah?” For he realised that Jesus had been handed over to him out of envy.

As Pilate was sitting in court, his wife sent him this message, “Have nothing to do with that holy Man. Because of Him, I had a dream last night that disturbed me greatly.” But the chief priests and the elders of the people stirred up the crowds, to ask for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus. 

When the governor asked them again, “Which of the two do you want me to set free?” they answered, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “And what shall I do with Jesus called the Messiah?” All answered, “Crucify Him!” Pilate insisted, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted louder, “Crucify Him!”

Pilate realised that he was getting nowhere, and that there could be a riot. He then asked for water, and washed his hands before the people, saying, “I am not responsible for His Blood, it is your doing.” And all the people answered, “Let His Blood be upon us and upon our children.” Then Pilate set Barabbas free, but had Jesus scourged, and handed Him over to be crucified.

The Roman soldiers took Jesus into the palace of the governor and the whole troop gathered around Him. They stripped Him and dressed Him in a purple military cloak. Then, twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head, and placed a reed in His right hand. They knelt before Jesus and mocked Him, saying, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, took the reed from His hand and struck Him on the head with it.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and dressed Him in His own clothes again, and led Him out to be crucified. On the way they met a man from Cyrene called Simon, and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they reached the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with gall. Jesus tasted it but would not drink it.

There they crucified Him, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what each one should take. Then they sat down to guard Him. The statement of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” They also crucified two bandits with Him, one on His right hand and one on His left.

People passing by shook their heads and insulted Him, saying, “Aha! You Who destroy the Temple and in three days rebuild it, save Yourself – if You are God’s Son – and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law mocked Him.

They said, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let the King of Israel now come down from His cross and we will believe in Him. He trusted in God; let God rescue Him if God wants to, for He Himself said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him insulted Him.

From midday, darkness fell over the whole land until mid-afternoon. At about three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabbacthani?” which means : My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? As soon as they heard this, some of the bystanders said, “He is calling for Elijah.”

And one of them ran, took a sponge and soaked it in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave Him to drink. Others said, “Leave Him alone, let us see whether Elijah comes to His rescue.” Then Jesus cried out again in a loud voice and gave up His Spirit.

Just then the curtain of the Temple sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after the resurrection of Jesus, entered the Holy City, and appeared to many.

The captain and the soldiers who guarded Jesus were greatly terrified, and when they saw the earthquake and all that had happened, and said, “Truly, this was God’s Son.”

(Holy Week) Sunday, 9 April 2017 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Philippians 2 : 6-11

Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in His appearance found as a Man.

He humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted Him and gave Him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.

(Holy Week) Sunday, 9 April 2017 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Psalm 21 : 8-9, 17-18a, 19-20, 23-24

All who see Me make a jest of Me; they sneer and shake their heads. “He put His trust in the Lord, let the Lord rescue Him! If the Lord is His friend, let Him help Him!”

Round about Me are vicious dogs, villainous rogues encircling Me. They have tied up My hands and feet. They can count all My bones.

Dividing My garments among them and casting lots for My raiment. O Lord, be not far from Me! O My strength, come quickly to My help.

I will proclaim Your Name to My brothers. I will praise You in the assembly. “All you who fear the Lord, praise Him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify Him! All you sons of Israel, revere Him!

(Holy Week) Sunday, 9 April 2017 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Isaiah 50 : 4-7

The Lord YHVH has taught Me so I speak as His disciple and I know how to sustain the weary. Morning after morning He wakes Me up to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord YHVH has opened My ear. I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn.

I offered My back to those who strike Me, My cheeks to those who pulled My beard; neither did I shield My face from blows, spittle and disgrace. I have not despaired, for the Lord YHVH comes to My help. So, like a flint I set My face, knowing that I will not be disgraced.

(Holy Week) Sunday, 9 April 2017 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Matthew 21 : 1-11

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples drew near Jerusalem and arrived at Bethphage, on the mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of His disciples, saying, “Go to the village in front of you, and there you will find a donkey tied up, with its colt by her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says something to you, say that the Lord needs them, and that He will send them back immediately.”

This happened in fulfilment of what the prophet said : Say to the daughter of Zion : See, your King comes to you in all simplicity, riding on a donkey, a beast of burden, with its colt. The disciples went, as Jesus had instructed them, and they brought the donkey with its colt. Then they threw their cloaks on its back, and Jesus sat on them.

Many people also spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The people who walked ahead of Jesus, and those who followed Him, began to shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was disturbed. The people asked, “Who is this Man?” And the crowd answered, “This is the Prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Sunday, 20 March 2016 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great beginning of the Holy Week, the very important week of celebrations of the core tenets of our faith, of the very crucial events surrounding the history of our salvation in God through Jesus Christ, His Son. For it was through Christ that we were all saved from destruction and damnation guaranteed for our sins.

Today we begin the celebration of the Holy Week with the celebration of the Palm Sunday, where we all know that it celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus our Lord into Jerusalem, the Holy City of God. Then, certainly, one may ask, what is the significance of such an entry? Did Christ not enter the city of Jerusalem on other occasions as well? After all the Gospels did say about how Christ went to the Temple of Jerusalem for a few times throughout His journeys, and surely He had entered the city a lot of times, even when He was still young and was only twelve years old.

But no, brothers and sisters in Christ, for this entry into Jerusalem is different from the other entries and visits by Jesus and His disciples to Jerusalem. For this entry marked the beginning of the end, that is the end of the earthly ministry of Jesus our Lord in this world, and yet also the beginning of God’s final phase of the plan to save us all mankind.

For it was what happened in that Sunday, a week before the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which set up the stage for the whole culmination of the work of our Lord, that began in Bethlehem on the day of His birth into this world, which came to His baptism, His ministry, and then His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and then how the people who had proclaimed Him as King would then turn on Him, and demanded the Romans to crucify Him instead.

Jesus knew that going into Jerusalem at such a time would mean that He would have to face rejection, suffering, punishment and death, and death by the hanging on the cross, by the Romans. But even knowing this, and knowing all of the persecutions, torture, the pain that He would have to endure, He still pressed on, and entered Jerusalem regardless, going forth to face whatever it was that those who were opposed to Him were trying to do to Him.

And why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because of His love for all of us, which transcended everything else. If God did not love us the way He had done, then He would not have bothered even to rescue us from our seemingly hopeless situation. After all, we mankind have proven ourselves throughout history to be very stubborn and resistant to the love and mercy which God is showing us.

We continued in our rebellious ways, not listening to God reminding us and constantly trying to pull us away from our fallen ways. And we resist even those whom He had sent to call us back into righteousness, the messengers, the prophets and the other holy men and women. God fully knew how His rebellious people would treat Him if He Himself were to come into their midst and call them to do the same thing, that is to repent.

But He did so regardless, just as at the mountain where He was transfigured, at Mount Tabor, where He did not remain forever, but continued to descend down the mountain, knowing that in order to save mankind from their fate, there is something that must be done, and it is to offer a worthy sacrifice as the means to absolve them from their sins.

And in order to absolve the whole multitude of mankind, all the billions and countless billions of them, and all the sins each had accumulated or will accumulate in their respective lives, which is really a gargantuan, a humongous amount of sins, nothing is worthy save if the Lord offers Himself, the one sole, perfect sacrifice, worthy to absolve us all. Just imagine all the sins, big and small that we have committed in life, and we should realise just how many sins we have committed.

And then imagine how that many sins being committed by all mankind who have ever lived, past, present and future, and all their sins, our sins are placed firmly on the shoulders of our Lord, Who willingly bore them all the way to the cross, and die for the sake of all of us criminals through our sins, so that our punishment may not be ours, but our lot becomes that of eternal life with God Who loves us.

And as we think and reflect about the love which our God has for us, let us also reflect on our own lives, our actions, words, deeds and all the things we have done in our lives. Have we been like the people of Jerusalem in their deeds, in how they treated the Lord Jesus? They welcomed the Lord with great pomp and celebrations, hailing Him as the Son of David, the Messiah and King, and yet, just less than a week later, they were the same ones who chose Barabbas over Jesus, and cried out, “Crucify Him!” when Pilate asked them what he should do with Jesus.

That means, have we proclaimed ourselves as Christians, saying that we are faithful to the Lord, and yet, have we been truly faithful to God? Are we faithful in our actions and in all our dealings with one another? If we say that we are faithful to God and yet our actions are detestable to Him, then we are no better than those people in Jerusalem, who proclaimed Jesus as King and Messiah on one day, and on the other day, called for Him to be crucified.

But remember, Jesus forgave them all, and He prayed for them. And He also died for them all, for He gave Himself up to be crucified, to suffer and die for all mankind, and not just for all those who are good to Him. Ultimately, it is our acceptance to His offer of mercy, and our commitment to make our own lives a better one that will make a difference in our lives.

As we proceed into the Holy Week celebrations beginning from today, and as we rejoice in God, crying out aloud, “Hosanna!” Let us also remember that we today also celebrate the Holy Passion of our Lord, He Who suffers for our sins and Who were tortured and wounded because of our trespasses. Let us be thoroughly and completely changed in body, mind and heart, so that we may become more devoted and faithful in all things, and be worthy of God’s promise of everlasting life. God bless us all. Amen.