Palm Sunday opens Holy Week. The liturgy of this day opens with the commemoration of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem. He enters with great humility riding on a colt. As he enters, the people greet him with great joy and acclamation. They lay their cloaks on the road with leaves of palm proclaiming: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”
The acclamation changes rapidly as the week progresses to the Lord’s passion. Jesus remains constant. He humbly enters the passion refusing to allow the forces of evil to have their way and deter him from the cross. He remains faithful to the Father and to his mission.
The words of Isaiah in the first reading are fulfilled in Christ Jesus: “Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” Nothing can deter Jesus from the cross.
The Lord’s passion is a celebration of God’s love. Amid the rejection, betrayal, denial, torture and execution, the love of the Father remains with the Son and the love of the Son remains with the Father. Jesus’ faith in the Father is constant.
He is well aware of what is going to happen and the cost of this love. His plea for mercy as He dies on the cross is not a plea for himself but for all humanity: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” His last words (in the Lukan passion proclaimed in the liturgy this year) reflect the great faith he has in the Father: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
As we remember the passion and death of the Lord we are humbled by God’s love. The Father sends the Son to reveal to us the depth of his love. The love is celebrated in the perfect life of obedience and surrender. In Jesus we see the Father. In Jesus we know the Father’s love. In Jesus we experience the Father’s mercy.
Jesus teaches us that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. He goes on to say: “You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have learned from my Father” (John 15:13-15).
Our response to God’s love is love. Loving as we have been loved, forgiving as we have been forgiven, giving as we have received.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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