Palm Sunday: welcoming Jesus with a saving faith
During Holy Week we follow the events of the last week of the earthly life of Jesus – events that won our salvation.
The liturgies of the week provide us with an extended drama in which we are to participate. It is a particular sort of dramatic representation calling for a particular sort of engagement. The Church wants us to interact with the thoughts and emotions of the characters as they react to the person, words and actions of Jesus, seeing similar trends, both good and bad, in our own thoughts, attitudes and emotions. But there is an important difference in how we are to engage with these texts and liturgies. The original characters acted without knowing how the events would unfold. We do know how the events work out historically and what they mean in terms of our salvation. We are to bring this faith to our engagement with the liturgical texts and actions, and so let our outlooks, attitudes and feelings be illuminated and purified by our faith.
Let us apply this to Palm Sunday which celebrates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as the Messiah. The gesture of riding on a donkey made clear that Jesus had messianic claims. The people recognised this and large crowds accepted him warmly, praising God for sending him. It is a sobering thought that a few days later the citizens of Jerusalem were crying out for his death as a false messiah and blasphemer. They had misunderstood which enemies he would defeat (sin, the devil and death) and how he would do it (by obedience unto suffering and death) and that the blessing he brought as victory was divine life and holiness, not earthly success. Although we know this, we sometimes get confused or disappointed by how God is acting, or appearing not to act, in our lives. We may even get annoyed at God, even if we do not call out for his death. The Church calls us to celebrate Palm Sunday with full Christian faith, knowing that Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph to complete his work by suffering, dying and rising again. It gives us more fully the attitude of Jesus, who the sake of the joy that lay ahead of him pressed on, disregarding the shame of the cross. This faith can purify and transform our difficulties. It is by elevating the attitude of the citizens to full Christian faith, that we can truly call out today and always, ‘Hosanna! Blessings on he who comes in the name of the Lord.’