Reflection for Palm Sunday
from the Carmelite Sisters, Dolgellau
Reflection for PALM SUNDAY of the PASSION of THE LORD
Holy Week opens with the solemn celebration of the triumphant entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, the Sunday immediately before His Passion.
Up until now, Jesus had always resisted any show of acclaim but now He accepts it - but on His own terms. The people acclaim Him, who comes riding on a donkey and the foal of a donkey.
Here begins the great mystery of Holy Week. The Lord of all, supremely worthy of our worship, begins the unutterably deep descent into a humility and abasement which will end in torture and a slave’s death so dreadful that it was never mentioned in polite Roman society.
The hymn has it, “Ride on! ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die:
O Christ, thy triumphs now begin
O’er captive death and conquered sin.
Ride on! ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die:
Bow thy meek head to mortal pain,
Then take, O God, Thy power, and reign.”
It is the triumphal procession of the King before battle. He accepts the acknowledgement of who He is, the “Son of David”, the long awaited Messiah. Now He allows the people to give Him the title He has always forbidden in public. But how few of them realised what kind of kingship this was, what kind of Christ this had to be. The next time we find the people assembled as a crowd again and Jesus before them, disgraced, scourged, scorned by the religious and civil authorities, they were far from ready to acclaim Him but rather let Him, and even called for Him, to be crucified. That bright day of palms and strewn coats and shouts of “Hosanna” to Christ, the Salvation of the world, only found fulfilment after Jesus had gone down to the lowest depths and then risen to glory with the sole purpose of taking a redeemed humanity with Him into Heaven.
This was the meaning of the Paschal Sacrifice that the poor, the anawim, those who are seeking the Lord, should find the way to God open once more; that “All the earth shall remember and return to the Lord” (Ps.21) This was the purpose of the Cross, to return to the longing eyes of the Father the prodigal children, who had wandered so far away from Him.
For this He took on our nature so He could fight with evil, sin and death on our behalf: humble to heal our pride; repudiated, tortured, dying in agony to heal our self-centred self-love; obedient unto death out of love for His Father’s will for our salvation, a love great enough to heal all the hatreds lurking in the human heart.
Today we hail Him, this year in sad and strange circumstances, not in processions with palms but with the homage of our faith and trust, knowing He is nearer than ever to us as we share His suffering. This year our Holy Week will be marked in a very special way by the Cross. We offer the struggle with our fears with the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane. We offer the restrictions and sufferings of these days with His Passion and death. We keep close to Him, uniting ourselves with all the intentions of His Divine Heart. He gave His life for love of all of us. With Him we give ourselves into the hands of our Father in Heaven. We call on the protection of the Mother He gave us from the Cross. There is not one of us who is outside the mantle of mercy which the Holy Father has thrown over the whole world in recent days in the Name of Jesus. We will shelter under this mantle and by our prayers of intercession and acts of love draw many other souls under it, especially the most needy and forgotten, the sick and the dying.
And let us even rejoice, too, in the sure knowledge that He has risen from the dead, and as we die in His dying, we shall indeed rise in His rising. Suffering and death do not have the last word. Wherever there is love, neighbourly kindness, concern and selfless service, there is Love and the Name of Love is Jesus.
“Many waters cannot quench love nor floods sweep it away.” It is eternal and even death could not hold it, death could not hold Him, death will not hold our loved ones and death will not hold us.
O Lord, keep hope alive in our hearts. However dark the hour seems now, Jesus, the Morning Star will rise and never set again.