April 13-14, 2019
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
A Stunning Reversal of Fortune
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
How can one liturgy communicate the triumph and tragedy of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion fully and completely. But that is what the Liturgy for this Sunday must accomplish. It does it very well from Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem to Jesus’ passion and death on the cross, we come to experience in this one liturgy God’ culminating plan of salvation. This stunning reversal of fortune begins in triumph then takes a tragic turn and ultimately with the celebration of Easter will have a final reversal. All the scriptures for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion reveal the reversal from triumph to tragedy and then the reversal which leads to the Resurrection.
Jesus enters triumphally into Jerusalem with shouts of joy as people proclaimed, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 19:2840) Those shouts that proclaimed Jesus as king would be turned into shouts of Crucify him, crucify him, in the Passion of Our Lord from the Gospel of Luke 22:1423:56. The reversals can be seen implicitly in Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem
The first reading from Isaiah 50: 47 is the third of four suffering servant songs which tells us about this servant who will suffer vicariously for the sins of us all. This poetic suffering servant song reveals the reversal theme we hear in today’s readings. The servant will be rejected by the people of Israel and he will suffer and be mocked and ridiculed. Even though he will suffer for the word he has been sent to proclaim with his welltrained tongue, he will not rebel nor will this servant turn back no matter how extreme the suffering will be. “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheek to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” The suffering of the servant has a purpose and the reversal is seen through the vicarious suffering of the servant, we will be given the help of God, just as God helps his faithful servant. “The Lord God is my help therefore I am not disgraced.”
The Passion of the Lord from the Gospel of Luke 22:1423:56 gives us an understanding that Jesus saw himself above all else as a servant. The title servant is a Messianic title which reveals what Jesus will do on the cross. The conversation after dinner reveals an important teaching to the Apostles on what it means to be a servant. Jesus tells the Apostles in preparation of His passion and He does so by addressing their table conversation. “Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be regarded as the great
est.” (Lk. 22:24) To help them to understand the Passion and their own ministry, He tells them that they are to be servants. None of them will use authority to benefit themselves but rather they are to serve as Jesus serves on the cross. Jesus offers a benediction prayer for the Apostles, that they will have the Kingdom conferred on them and that they will eat and drink at His table in the Kingdom and that their faith will not fail. They are to follow the example of the suffering servant who does not falter.
Psalm 22 response follows the shouts we heard when Jesus entered Jerusalem, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord and the shouts we hear in the Passion, Crucify Him, crucify Him.” This time we hear the cry, My God, My God why have you abandoned me. Jesus himself says these very same words on the cross. These are words that will bring about a reversal and the verses of the Psalm also reflect that reversal. The first verse tells us of the suffering of the servant while the final verse tells us of the glory of God.
Just as Psalm 22 reminds the people of Israel that they are to give glory to God for God’s mighty deeds which have been handed down through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The New covenant is to be proclaimed so that we never forget the mighty Deeds of God the Father through his servant and Son. The Philippians Hymn which we hear in the second reading on Passion Sunday is one of the oldest of all creeds, for that is what it is, a creed that tells us of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And each time we proclaim this creed we proclaim how Jesus Christ has brought about the reversal of fortune for all humanity through his blood to be shed on the cross.
Yours in Christ,