Reflection for the Vigil of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

March 19, 2016

Palm Sunday Gospel: Luke 19:28-40

By Sister Genevieve Robinson, O.S.B.

Sister Genevieve RobinsonTomorrow commences the start of Holy Week, a week in which we are called to meditate on the last days of Jesus’ time on earth before his death and resurrection--an opportunity to reflect on our promised redemption. In preparation of the celebration of His resurrection, we will have read and meditated on the passion as recorded by the four gospel writers. 

But what comes before the passion narratives? 

This year we hear Luke’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. While it is similar to Matthew’s and John’s insofar as Christ directs his disciples to go into the village and to find a colt, to untether it, and to bring it to him: Luke’s account is somewhat unlike theirs. Luke’s version of the entry into Jerusalem does not focus on the waving of palm branches; actually palms are not mentioned.  Instead, Luke emphasizes the cloaks of the people.  He wrote, [They] “threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount.  As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road.” [Luke 19:35-36] Thus, Jay Cormier writing in Give Us This Day [2010], several years ago, referred to Palm Sunday as “cloak Sunday”; that is, a reading without palms or ‘hosannas,’ but with cloaks.  The cloaks of the disciples and the crowd are primary, or central, to the story.

Unlike many of us today who have at least one coat (maybe two), a jacket, and several sweaters for inclement weather, the ordinary people of first century Jerusalem probably possessed only one cloak.  Consequently, it was a prized possession that was used both for protection from the elements and for covering while sleeping out of doors.  Before Jesus mounts the donkey, the disciples and those ordinary folk present do not hesitate to throw their cloaks (their prized possession) either on the donkey or on the ground along Jesus’ path.  After all He is a king—their Messiah-king; should he not have a royal welcome?  

As the people of Jerusalem emptied themselves of what they owned for the love of Jesus, the Messiah-king, how do we put aside ourcloaks” or empty ourselves for Christ? What are our cloaks that we can offer as we prepare to listen to the passion of Christ?  Are our cloaks that of pride, self-centeredness, and hurts? How do we become vessels of God’s mercy for others?

During this Holy Week as we prepare for Easter, can we imitate the spirit of humility and sacrifice manifested by Christ?  Are we able to take up our cross for the cause of righteousness and truth, for love and forgiveness? Can we make a commitment to seek justice for those who are treated unjustly?

In casting off our “cloaks” can we welcome Jesus and walk with Him in helping to change the world to a place that is caring, selfless, inclusive, and loving?  Let us, like the followers of Jesus, ignore the Pharisees’ dictum to be quiet.  Let us be excited and speak out about our relationship with Jesus; let us walk with him; and let us commit ourselves to helping those who are without.  Let us throw down our cloaks.