Palm Sunday

This is the first day of Holy Week.  The entire liturgical year is meant to help us to walk with Our Lord in all the major events in His life.  Throughout Lent we have been meditating upon Our Lord’s passion.  This week, we concentrate in a particular way on each one of the last days of the Lord’s life and upon His death.  Holy Week is a time for all of us to really focus upon all that Our Lord suffered in order to save us.

Today we begin Holy Week and many of the Liturgies of Holy Week look a bit different from what we are used to.  Today, there was an extra Gospel reading at the beginning of Mass, for example.  The Gospel at the beginning of the Mass reminded us of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which Jesus made just a short time before He was put to death.  The crowd on that occasion was crying out and saluting Jesus as a King, as the Messiah who had been promised from the beginning of the world: “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!”  We distribute palms on this day to remind us of how the crowds had palm branches and laid them before Jesus as He entered the city of Jerusalem.

The Gospel during the Mass reminds us of how quickly the crowds turned on Our Lord.  On one day they cried out in joy and exultation at Jesus’ arrival and yet within a very short time, the same crowds were stirred up against Our Lord.  Just a few days after the crowd had shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David” they again cried out, but this time they to shouted something different: “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

We take palm branches today, in order to remind ourselves that we, too, are quick to rejoice at the arrival of our King; we take palm branches today to remind ourselves that we who rejoice at the coming of Our Lord are the same ones who betray Our Lord whenever we sin.  Throughout the year, the palm branches that we take home will remind us of Our Lord’s victory over sin and death.

Palm branches are often used in Church art as a symbol for martyrs.  The palm branch is shaped like a “v” indicating victory, and martyrs have done just that: they achieved victory over sin and death by shedding their blood rather than turn away from God in sin.  The palm branches that we take home today, are to remind us that Jesus died for us and by dying, He won for us the ultimate victory.  Our palm branches also remind us of the fact that we are called to take up our cross daily and follow after Him.  We, too, are to be victorious over sin by rooting it out of our lives.

The whole purpose of Lent is to root sin out of our hearts and out of our lives: that is the reason for the tradition of giving things up for Lent.  Hopefully, Lent has helped all of us to grow in our self-discipline.  Hopefully, our Lenten sacrifices have helped us to make progress in overcoming sin.  If we have let our Lenten practices slip a bit, this week is the time to redouble our efforts.  Let us do our best to enter into this Holy Week.  Like everything else in the spiritual life: the more we put into it, the more we will get out of it.

Let us use this Holy Week in a particular way to meditate everyday this week on the Passion of Our Lord.  Realize that what He suffered, He suffered for each one of you and for me.  Our Lord did not suffer and die for humanity in general.  He had each one of us in His mind as He underwent His Passion.  It was His love for you and for me that motivated Him to willingly undergo His Passion.  The thought that Jesus Christ willingly suffered so much for each one of us should inspire within us a great hatred for our sins, but also a great trust and confidence in His mercy.  Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us sinners.  Amen.