Palm Sunday: Passion of the Lord

by Fr. Ed Liptak, SDB

Two separate events are recalled on this Sunday before Easter. The first is the Lord’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The second event is that of the Lord’s Passion. On past Sundays we have met the Gospel of St. John, but this day returns to that of St. Matthew honoring both the Entry and the Lord’s Passion. Matthew’s account is detailed as we listen, palms in hand, before entering for Mass.

From atop the Mount of Olives and with prophetic insight, Jesus sent his disciples into the nearby village.  As He predicted, they found an ass and her colt and were allowed to take them, because “The Master has need of them.” Thus, the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 calling for rejoicing in Jerusalem was fulfilled: Say to daughter Zion, “Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” Before the ‘entry’ Matthew showed the divine foresight of Jesus.

The crowds too revealed their belief that the Messiah, the long-awaited Savior had come. Excited and waving their branches they shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” Matthew together with them proclaimed that Jesus was the Savior from the Most High God among them.

At the Mass once the people come into the church, joy rapidly fades. Before the Passion, Isaiah speaks of the Messiah, lashed, mocked, buffeted, and spat upon. Paul added openly that Jesus was obeying the plan of his Father, even to accept death on the cross. And Matthew launched into the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. The Passover near,  Jesus arranged for his Last Supper with the Twelve. Lovingly, He left them his presence in the Bread and Wine. Yet, He stated they would abandon him. At nightfall they left for the Garden where in anguish He pleaded, If only He did not have to suffer the Cross.

But he was captured, rushed to the High Priest, then to Pilate, thence in total agony, body, soul and spirit, to the humiliation and awesome pain of Calvary. It all had purpose. All of it was for our salvation:“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, for by his wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). His death overcame our death. In Jesus we live.