Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

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Mark 11:1-10 | Homily – Patricia Gamgort, OSB | 3/27/21

During Lent, we have sung JERUSALEM, MY DESTINY, several times, recalling Jesus’ final journey to his destiny. 

Tonight we celebrate the vigil of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. Year after year, at the beginning of Holy Week, this prologue to the passion narrative – Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem – is proclaimed.

Let’s look first, at the Palm Sunday scene.

This year, in Mark’s detailed account, Jesus specifically directs the disciples to go to a designated place and untie a particular colt and bring it back to him.

And we see Jesus mounted on the colt:

·      amidst lots of turmoil – waving branches and shouting  people:  “Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

And Jesus comes into Jerusalem riding on a donkey:

·      with no army or court – as a king might enter

·      but as one whose throne will be the cross

We accompany Jesus, as he carries us with him on that journey into Jerusalem.

I don‘t see him responding/reacting to the waving of branches or the shouting. 

Rather, I picture Jesus on that colt, staring into the distance,  looking  beyond the noise and excitement to what lies ahead:

*an agonizing journey of betrayal, torture, crucifixion, death.

But before we get to those final days of Jesus, his passion and death, I’d like to return to the colt who carried Jesus on Palm Sunday, to see what lessons we might learn from him. 

This donkey did play an important role because in the 10 verses of Mark, the colt was referenced 12x either by name or “he;”   go and get a colt, untie it, the master has need of it, etc. etc.

I read a fable about a colt who thought the reception of branches and shouting were for him, and he said to himself “I must be a unique donkey.”

On Monday, the colt asked his mother if he could walk down the same street because he thought he’d receive the same reception as Sunday.

His wise mother responded:  “That won’t happen.  You are nothing without him who was riding upon you.”

But, five days later, on Friday, not being able to resist the temptation of receiving another royal treatment, when the colt saw lots of people on the same street, he ignored his mother and ran to the street

 BUT he had to run for his life:  soldiers chased him and people stoned him.

The colt came to his senses:  “I’m not as unique as I thought;

I am only a poor donkey without Jesus riding on by back.”

Like the donkey, might we ask ourselves the question:  What makes me unique? 

·      Is it because I carry Jesus within me and make his love tangible?

·      Is it because others see Jesus’ image in my words and actions?

                                                  ******

Just as we accompany Jesus on Palm Sunday as he enters Jerusalem, let us join him as he carries his cross to Calvary. 

This journey signals the beginning of Jesus’ Passion. 

(Mark’s passion will be read tomorrow. Hence, “Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.”)

 

·      I learned a different meaning for the word “passion” from Ron Rolheiser and Henri Nouwen. 

They both stressed that Jesus’ passion marked a turning point in his ministry.

Jesus became passive – things were no longer done BY him but TO him. 

·      Instead of Jesus’ acting on behalf of others – healing, feeding, teaching –

·      He assumes the silence of the suffering servant of Isaiah: “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from spitting.”

Jesus is passive:

He comes in total vulnerability, joining to his cross all of suffering humanity:  the pandemic, mass murders, racism, tornadoes, fires, starvation, human greed, scarred Mother Earth, human trafficking, wars, and on and on and on.

                                              ***************

The story of Palm Sunday and the Lord’s Passion never changes.

But, the question is: 

·      In the re-hearing, will I allow the story to change me? 

·      Will I be content to simply recite the prayer:  “We adore you O Christ and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world” ?

                                                             OR

  • Am I willing to carry the same crosses as does Jesus, knowing he will accompany me and together with him, I might be able to redeem a small part of this earth, by dispelling the darkness of evil with the shining light of the resurrected Christ?