The Church celebrates this Sixth Sunday in Lent as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. It is on Palm Sunday that we enter Holy Week, welcoming Jesus into our lives and asking Him to allow us a share in His suffering, death and Resurrection. This is the time of the year when we stop to remember and relive the events which brought about our redemption and salvation. The Holy Week liturgies present us with the actual events of the dying and rising of Jesus. These liturgies enable us to experience in our lives here and now what Jesus went through then. In other words, what we commemorate and relive during this week is not just Jesus’ dying and rising, but our own dying and rising in Him, which result in our healing, reconciliation, and redemption. Just as Jesus did, we, too, must lay down our lives freely by actively participating in the Holy Week liturgies. In doing so, we are allowing Jesus to forgive us our sins, heal the wounds in us caused by our sins and the sins of others and transform us more completely into the image and likeness of God. In this way, we will be able to live more fully the Divine life we received at Baptism. Attentive participation in the Holy Week liturgies will also deepen our relationship with God, increase our Faith and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus. But let us remember that Holy Week can become "holy” for us only if we actively and consciously take part in the liturgies of this week. During this week of the Passion -- passionate suffering, passionate grace, passionate love and passionate forgiving – each of us is called to remember the Christ of Calvary and then to embrace and lighten the burden of the Christ Whose passion continues to be experienced in the hungry, the poor, the sick, the homeless, the aged, the lonely and the outcast. Today’s liturgy combines two contrasting moments, one of glory, the other of suffering - the welcome of Jesus into Jerusalem and the drama of His trial which ends in His crucifixion and death. Let us rejoice and sing as Jesus comes into our life today. Let us also weep and mourn as His death confronts us with our sin. The African-American song asks the question, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed Him to a tree?" The answer is yes, a definite yes. Yes, we were there in the crowd on both days, shouting ’Hosanna!’ and later ’Crucify Him! ’
First reading, Isaiah 50:4-7: In the middle section of the book of the prophet Isaiah, chapters 40-55, there are four short passages which scholars have called the Songs of the Suffering Servant. Today’s first reading is the third Servant Song. These four songs are about a mysterious figure whose suffering brings about a benefit for the people. In the original author’s mind, the servant was probably a figure for the people of Israel, or for a faithful remnant within the people. However, Jesus saw aspects of His own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs, and the Church refers to them in this time of solemn meditation on the climax of Jesus’ life. In today’s Psalm, the Psalmist puts his trust in Yahweh for deliverance and salvation. The context of this day’s worship also conveys Jesus’ confidence in God’s protection in the midst of His trial and crucifixion.
Second Reading, Philippians 2:6-11 is an ancient Christian hymn representing a very early Christian understanding of Who Jesus is and how His mission saves us from sin and death. It is a message that Paul received from those who had been converted to Christ. “Jesus was Divine from all eternity. But he didn’t cling to that. Rather He emptied Himself and became human. He accepted further humbling by obeying [the constraints of the] human condition even unto death by crucifixion. So, God highly exalted Him, giving Him the highest title in the universe.” Christians reading this passage today are joining the first people who ever pondered the meaning of Jesus’ life and mission. We’re singing their song and reciting their creed during this special time of the year when we remember the most important things Our Lord did.
The first part of today’s Gospel describes the royal reception which Jesus received from His admirers, who paraded with Him for a distance of two miles: from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. Two-and-a-half million people were normally present to celebrate the Jewish feast of Passover. Jesus permitted such a royal procession for two reasons: 1) to reveal to the general public that He was the promised Messiah, and 2) to fulfill the prophecies of Zechariah (9:9) and Zephaniah (3:16-19): “Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion…. see now your King comes to you; He is victorious, triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey…” (Zech. 9:9). (The traditional “Palm Sunday Procession” at Jerusalem began in the fourth century AD when the Bishop of Jerusalem led the procession from the Mount of Olives to the Church of the Ascension).
In the second part of today’s Gospel, we listen to the Passion of Christ according to Matthew. We are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the story like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience, Herod who ridiculed Jesus, and the leaders of the people who preserved their position by getting rid of Jesus.
In this Holy week take time to remember what Jesus did for us and reflect how we carry our daily crosses to follow him....