Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion:
It’s easy to say Hosanna. It’s hard to stand under the cross.
This liturgy contains a huge contrast. We began with the Triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We joined the crowds in proclaiming, “Hosanna.” We marched into the Church singing “All Glory Praise and Honor,” and then, suddenly, the mood darkens. We see the priest take off the white cloak and put on red vestments. We heard the reading about the suffering servant. We heard how Christ emptied himself, accepting death on a cross. And then we proclaimed the Passion.
We really are thrown by the liturgy. Is this a triumphal celebration or a remembrance of the Cross? The Church catches this contrast even in its naming of the day. It is no longer just “Palm Sunday.” Nor is it “Passion Sunday.” No, the proper name of today’s celebration is Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. Today, exaltation and suffering are intertwined.
Perhaps this weekend, as in the past, a thoughtful parishioner, many times a child, will make a cross out of palm for me. I like to keep one in my suit pocket. I also like to put palms around the pictures in my house. I want to remember what took place and what takes place. I want to remember the events of 2000 years ago and my own participation in these events today. I want to remember the times that I am upbeat and full of enthusiasm in my faith, and I want to remember the times that I run from the challenges the faith demands, the challenges of the cross. Where were the crowds on Calvary? Where am I when confronted with the challenges of life? Where are you? Can we climb Golgotha and unite our difficulties to his cross, or do we only want to be in the presence of the Lord when we can say “Hosanna?” Is our faith a matter of good feelings, or are we committed to the Lord?
We have many choices in life. The most important of these is our decision to accept Jesus Christ. But accepting the Lord means being united to him both in his glory and in his passion. Accepting the Lord means being united to him in the joyful times of our lives and through the challenges of our lives.
We celebrate Holy Week this week. The holiest week of the year is given to us to remember the past and allow it to be a reality in our present. And so we approach the sacrament of penance if we have not already done so during Lent, and we ask forgiveness for the times we have turned from the Lord, perhaps even run from the Lord. We attend the Solemn Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday and we pray that we might be faithful to the new and eternal covenant of the Blood. We venerate the cross on Good Friday and enter into a deep meditation on its wondrous power. And, finally, we celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday, exalting in the gift of the eternal life of Christ.
Come and pray with your parish this week. May this be a holy week for you and your families.