Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion by Sr. Catherine Cleary

Gospel: Luke 22:14-23

The Church’s title for this Sunday summarizes the liturgy quite well: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. The Liturgy begins with the joyful singing, “Hosanna, Hosanna to the King, the King of Israel.” The people process in to the church waving their palm branches. Less than ½ hour later, we are standing for the Passion joining with the crowds’ chant of “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

From the triumphant march to the angry mob scene is a leap of reversing moods. And so what is our prayer on Palm Sunday? It all seems so contradictory. We are excited about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem but immediately the Gospel reminds us of Jesus’ betrayal and his impending suffering and death.

In a sense the liturgical moods are not unlike our life situations. The day often emerges with our hearts full of peace and joyful expectation of a new start and then the reality of the darkness of the cross casts its shadow on us. Reversals occur: light then darkness in our lives. We can recall a broken relationship, a financial reversal, a sudden serious health issue, a job dismissal.

God’s word reminds us that awareness of God’s presence, living in that presence and walking the entire path of Jesus Christ is the only way to be true to our Redeemer and the only way to discover our true self.

Lenten readings have been very clear that walking the path with Jesus will always be filled with paradoxes. There will be temptations, as Jesus was tempted in the desert. There will be moments of being transformed. The 3rd Sunday readings reminded us there will be burning bushes,  moments of experiencing God’s presence  as  Moses did. There will be betrayals and pain inflicted by loved ones, but as followers of Jesus, we will have the grace to FORGIVE, just as the prodigal Father forgave his son.

Lest we forget that forgiveness for us as Christians is critical, the theme of the 4th (prodigal son), 5th (adulterous woman) and 6th Sunday (crucifixion) is relentless with the command to forgive.

Today’s Gospel is especially poignant as Jesus – tortured, crucified and hanging on the cross – says, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”  The Gospel is clear: we must follow Jesus’ example to first love and then forgive, for forgiveness is not possible without love.

We learn from the suffering Jesus who on the cross empties himself, being one with God. Being emptied of self, he is free to be filled with God’s love. He forgives Peter who denied him, the executioners whose nails tore through his body, and the thief on the cross next to him. And breathing his last words we hear, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.”

My prayer is that all of us who read these Lenten reflections have learned to empty our false selves of revenge, anger and resentment, and have rooted ourselves in the body of Christ coming closer to discovering our true self.

Have I noticed that my Lenten reflections on the Word of God brought me closer to God’s love and forgiveness of me?
Who am I now?
Is there someone I am still in process of forgiving?
Am I willing to let myself be transformed, and to practice feeling risen up with the Lord?

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