April 12, 2019

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Church this weekend leads us to the climax of Lent, the observance of Holy Week, by offering the impressive liturgy of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.

Recalling the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, for St. Luke the utter apex of the entire ministry of the Lord since in Jerusalem the crucifixion and resurrection would occur, these readings bring us to the heart of the Church’s teaching regarding salvation. Jesus is eternal Lord and Savior.

When the palms are blessed, and the solemn procession forms (ideally of all in the congregation), the Church offers us a reading from Luke. This passage recalls the plans for the arrival of Jesus in the Holy City as well as the arrival itself.

An element of inevitability—of providence—surrounds the event. Jesus tells the Pharisees who object to it all that even if the disciples were silent, the very stones would shout the good news of salvation in him. God wills that we have everlasting life in him.

For the first reading in the Liturgy of the Word, the Church gives us the third of the four “songs of the suffering servant” from the third section of Isaiah. Scholars debate the identity of this servant. Was he a prophet? A collective symbol for the people of Israel? In any case, Christians have always seen in these songs the image of the innocent, constantly loyal servant of God, the Lord Jesus.

The second reading is from St. Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. These verses are thought to have been an ancient Christian hymn, used in early liturgies, eloquent in declaring intense faith.

As its last reading, the Church dramatically offers a passage from Luke’s passion narrative. The rubrics provide for the congregation to be involved.

Each Gospel contains a highly detailed and lengthy account of the trial and execution of Jesus. Each evangelist was an individual person who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had his own insights into what happened on the first Good Friday.

In general, Luke’s Gospel sees Jesus as the embodiment of God’s mercy, literally God in human flesh, the son of Mary, a woman and not an angel or a goddess. Jesus bears eternal life. He makes all things right. He seeks out the wayward and the despondent. He reconciles sinners with God. All this is completed in the Lord’s sacrificial death on Calvary, so everything so far has been a prelude to those final days in Jerusalem.

Jesus had his enemies. People are obtuse, at times devious, and even vicious. Still, the love of God will not be thwarted. Salvation will come. It is God’s will for us.

Reflection

Few sections of the Scriptures are as powerful as the Passion narratives presented to us in the four Gospels. Luke’s passion narrative is definitely among these in its capacity to teach us and to call us to Christ.

The readings from Isaiah and Philippians brilliantly focus our minds upon Jesus. He is Lord!

On Palm Sunday, the crown of the Liturgy of the Word is the awesome proclamation of the Passion of Jesus as presented by St. Luke. The Church takes us most movingly to the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem. He is destined to redeem the world. Salvation had to come. He was promised. He is king. Some people responded. Some did not, burdened by their ignorance, sin or pride.

Finally, magnificently, the Passion narrative reveals the depth of the Lord’s giving of self despite the intrigue of the trial and the awfulness of the crucifixion. We are flawed by our own sin. Figuratively, because of our sins, we stand with the enemies of Christ. God nevertheless loves us with a perfect, uncompromising, unending love. He forgives us, offering us eternal salvation if simply we turn to him with love. †

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