The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (12:1-18)
What an amazing sight it must have been to behold Our Lord Jesus Christ entering into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday nearly 2000 years ago! The Lord, the king of glory enters into the city not riding a majestic and powerful horse or being pulled in a chariot or carried on the shoulders of strong men. He enters in a most humble fashion, riding, of all creatures, a lowly donkey. The people of all ages cheered and celebrated. For a moment, they believed in Jesus. But it was a very short moment, and then things changed in the blink of an eye.
They had believed in Jesus because they had all seen and heard of His most amazing miracle, the raising of Lazarus from the dead after four days. The people were shocked, astounded and amazed. Even the most staunch critics of Our Lord had to step back and think again about the Lord. The sign and wonder that He performed was beyond anything that could be ignored.
I think that this feast of Palm Sunday is bittersweet for us. The people welcome the Lord and they rejoice at His presence in their city, yet we know that there is so much more that will unfold in this story over the coming days. Indeed, in the next seven days, not only Jerusalem, but all of the universe will be shaken and changed forever. Palm Sunday indicates for us the start of the most important week in the history of the world.
So it is a bittersweet day because we see the crowds rejoice and yet we know that this enthusiasm and joy is short lived. It will change, the enthusiasm will change, the people will change. It is bittersweet because we are reminded that we are not much different than those people in the crowd. We may be all for Jesus today, and yet tomorrow we might be ready to turn away from Him, to hide our faces from Him, to deny Him, to betray Him, maybe we even plot to eliminate Him from our lives. When do we do these things and turn from the Lord and betray Him? Whenever we willingly choose false gods and false loves, whenever we choose sin or deny our faith and whenever we deny the teachings of the Church because it is the body of Christ.
Yet through all of this, the celebration, the changes in the people’s temperament, the transformation of the adoring crowds into the anger of the mobs, through all of it, the Lord Jesus Christ didn’t change. He stayed faithful to God the Father and to His people. He is love made flesh. Jesus is the embodiment of all that it means to love and to actualize love. And His love is constant. It is the love that created the world and gave it life. It is the same love that created you and gave you life. And the Lord is completely focused and determined to complete His task. The task for which He was born and came into the world. The task of healing us and sharing His life with us. Christ our God perfectly completed His task of healing us and giving us His divine life through the death of the cross. Through His innocent death upon the cross, He wipes away the sin and death that were our reality and we are called forth to new life, a resurrection, a life in Christ.
St. Andrew of Crete speaking about this very feast had this to say:
“In his humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself. And even though we are told that he has now ascended above the highest heavens – the proof, surely, of his power and godhead – his love for man will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory, and made it one with his own in heaven.
So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song”…“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel.”