Reflection for Passion Sunday

April 14, 2019 | Sister Linda Herndon, OSB 

Readings: Zechariah 9:9-10; Luke 19:28-40

When I first read these scriptures for tonight, they were not quite what I expected. Where is the story of Jesus, the one who everyone expects to be a powerful king, making his grand entrance into Jerusalem? And where is the mention of the palm branches—after all, this is the Vigil of Palm Sunday…

But they are not the images presented to us in the readings tonight.

The prophet Zechariah instructs us to shout for joy because we have a king who is coming! But the king he describes is not one who is coming in triumph and putting on a show of might as we might expect. The king that Zechariah describes is one who will come riding on a donkey’s colt—not putting on a show of might. This king is one who will end all war, banishing the weapons of war, and bringing peace to all the earth. Quite a contrast to the messianic king that was expected by the people of Zechariah’s time!

When Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem on that morning (that we now call Palm Sunday), his disciples surely must have recalled this passage from the prophet Zechariah. They are now certain because of all the miracles that they had witnessed Jesus perform that this is indeed their great king who has finally come to bring peace to the earth. NOW it is THEIR turn to sing the same song that the angels first sang the night when Jesus was born: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” (S. Janelle, I imagine you didn’t realize that you missed your chance before evening praise tonight to sneak in a Christmas song!) From where the disciples stand at this moment: Their king is finally here, the time for peace is come, it is time to celebrate this moment for “if they keep silent, even the stones will cry out!”

What, then, is the message for us here in Atchison, Kansas, on this April evening in 2019, this Vigil of Passion Sunday, on this eve of Holy Week? I believe that Jesus tells us exactly what is expected of us!

When Jesus was told by some of the Pharisees to rebuke his disciples for their proclamation of him as their king, his response was, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” I think that Jesus expects that our response to him is for us to not to not keep silent either. It seems that we are expected to “exalt greatly” and “shout for joy” for our king, our just savior, is in our midst. In these upcoming days of the Triduum and in the following days of Easter, we will celebrate Jesus’s presence with us in a very special, sacred, and holy way. How will we as individuals and as a community cry out to proclaim peace and unity, to make Jesus’s message known in our world today? It seems that is the question for us as we enter these sacred days and weeks knowing that Jesus asks and expects no less of us than he did of his disciples…