Palm Sunday

Fr Ken Barker – DOJ Canberra

Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey. This is no accident. The prophet Zechariah predicted the new king would come “humble and mounted on a colt the foal of an ass…and he shall command peace to the nations”(9:9-10). A poor king was to come, whose rule did not depend on political or military might, but on humility, mercy and meekness. Spreading the garments where he was to pass was a gesture of exalting him as king (2Kings 9:13). His kingship is universal, overall men and women. The disciples rejoicing and praising God with loud voices, cry out “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord”.

 This is a joyful, enthusiastic shout of praise to God. The apostles, together with the other pilgrims coming into Jerusalem for the festival were full of joyful expectation. They sensed the significance of this entry to the holy city, even though they did not realise that it would take Jesus to Calvary. The Pharisees present were aghast at this adulation and told Jesus to rebuke his disciples. To the contrary Jesus strongly endorsed their loud exultant praise: “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out”. Nothing is going to stop the praise of God, whether it be unbelief, cynicism, hatred, or persecution, God will be praised. That is the highest function of human beings. We were made to praise God. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus goes immediately to the Temple, where economic interest had turned the Father’s house into a “robber’s den”. Casting out the sellers, Jesus affirms the “little ones”, the “children of God”, who have hearts to praise God, quoting Psalm 8 “Out of the mouths of children and babes in arms you have brought perfect praise”. It is only those with child-like, unsophisticated hearts who are really free to give glory to God.

Jesus’ journey towards Jerusalem in Luke’s gospel was very deliberate. Earlier, Luke had told us that “when the time was drawing near for Jesus to be taken up to heaven he set his face like flint towards Jerusalem” (9:51). As he came in sight of the city he wept over it because “you did not recognise your opportunity when God offered it”.  Nevertheless, he entered the city for our salvation. Only a few days later a different crowd was crying out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”. They did crucify him, but at that moment he cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” This forgiveness broke the cycle of violence in the world and brought the possibility of true peace through reconciliation.  Our sins put him on the Cross, but it was his love that kept him there.

Questions for group

  1. When you reflect on the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem where do you find yourself – one of the apostles praising, or a pilgrim entering the city, or an interested bystander, or one of the pharisees, or somewhere else.  Share what this means to you.
  2. Jesus strongly endorses enthusiastic praise of God. Do you share in that desire to praise God with your whole being? Or is there some interior obstacle to genuinely praising God from the heart? Do you find that you are able to worship in spirit and in truth in the Mass
  3. Reflect on the difference between the pilgrims who were exalting Jesus at this time of entry into Jerusalem and those who gathered before Pilate to condemn him to death with shouts of “crucify him”. What does this tell us about the human condition, and what does it say about our own response to God?
  4. How have you experienced the peace that comes from the Cross of Jesus? In particular share some way that the gift of forgiveness has changed your life or enabled reconciliation.

Today’s Scripture

First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-7

Second Reading: Philippians 2:6-11

Gospel: Luke 19:28-40