Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is the beginning of the holiest week of the entire year. This week we walk with Our Lord as He underwent His Passion: these days of Holy Week connect us to those historical events in Our Lord’s life by which our redemption was achieved. Holy Week is not just a time to remember and meditate upon all that Our Lord suffered for Our salvation: it is a time for us to enter into it and really walk with Jesus as He suffered, as He journeyed to Calvary, as He was laid in the Tomb and Rose victoriously on Easter Sunday.

There are two extremes that we experience in this first liturgy of Holy Week: joy and sorrow. Today we began with the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The palm branches were blessed and they will be distributed at the end of Mass. These blessed palm branches are to remind us of Our Lord’s victory. The palm branch is shaped like a “v” and it is a symbol of victory. In Catholic art the martyrs are often depicted with palm branches to signify their victory over sin and death by laying down their lives rather than reject their Faith. The palm branches that we will receive today are to remind us that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death.

Our Lord entered Jerusalem in a triumphant procession to shouts of “Hosanna in the highest.” This phrase was the acknowledgement that Jesus was, in fact, the long-awaited Messiah: the One Who came to set us free. We sing the same refrain at every Mass just before Our Lord descends upon our altar at the Consecration: when the bread and wine are transformed into His very Body and Blood. The Church puts these words on our lips at every Mass to remind us that at the Consecration we truly welcome Our Lord and Our King into our midst.

We also heard the reading of the Passion in today’s Mass; and this Gospel reminds us that the triumphant entry into Jerusalem was only a precursor to Our Lord’s Passion. Just a few days after the crowd welcomed Jesus as their King, they rejected Him and called for His execution. The Church puts these words onto our lips to remind us that it was for our sins that Jesus died. Our Lord did not die for humanity in general. He died for each and every one of you in particular, and for me. He had you, personally, in mind when He laid down His life on the Cross. He died to save you from your sins. It was not the nails but His love for you that held Him to the Cross.

We have to remember that Our Lord’s Sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross is not merely an historical event. Through the Mass, Calvary is made present to us. The Mass is the un-bloody re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary. At every Mass, on every altar, the same Sacrifice is made to the Father. Let us be clear: Jesus does not die again: He died once and for all on the Cross. The Mass makes that once-and-for-all offering that Jesus made of Himself to the Father present to us. At every Mass, we stand at the foot of Calvary. The Eucharist is the same offering that Jesus made on the Cross: it is the total offering of the Son to the Father. It is the same one that makes the offering at Mass: Jesus acts through the priest to offer Himself. And the Sacrifice has the same effect: through our reception of Holy Communion the victory over sin and death that Our Lord won on the Cross for us is applied to our souls.

In a similar way, all of the liturgies of Holy Week are not just commemoration of historical events. Holy Week is not just a way for us to remember Our Lord’s suffering and death: it is a way for us to enter into the very events that destroyed sin and death and opened for us the Gates of Heaven. Let us enter into the sacred mysteries that we come in contact with during this Holy Week. The more we enter into them, the more fruit they will bear in our hearts and the more joy-filled we will be when we celebrate Our Lord’s victory over sin and death at Easter.

Lord, help us to truly walk with You during this Holy Week. Give us the grace to grow in our appreciation of all that You did for us and all that You continue to do for us. Lord Jesus, You died to set us free: help us to turn away from sin and live in the true freedom of the sons and daughters of God. Draw us, Lord, ever closer to Yourself. Amen.

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