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Palm/Passion Sunday

April 1, 2007

Blessed Palm Sunday!

We are entering into the most holy days of the Church year, intensifying
our preparation to unite ourselves with Jesus in His Passion and death
as He leads us through tragedy into triumph.  You will notice that we do
not celebrate any saints this week or next.  Nothing may interrupt these
high holy days.

+Luke 19:28-40 (Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem)
Isaiah 50:4-7 (God’s messenger is not deterred by violence)
Psalm 22:8-24 “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Philippians 2:6-11 (Jesus emptied Himself)
+Luke 22:14-23:56 (the Passion)

It’s the beginning of the end.  Jesus is coming to Jerusalem to
celebrate the Passover for the last time, a celebration of freedom that
He will fulfill and forever transform.  He is coming to establish His
kingdom (His Church), to be crowned (with thorns), to mount His throne
(the Cross), to proclaim His royal decrees (“Father, forgive them. They
know not what they do”, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise”, “Son,
behold your mother”, etc.).  He enters the city humbly, riding on a
donkey, yet amid a cheering procession, like a hero returning victorious
from battle.  His followers throw their cloaks on the road before Him,
and begin to rejoice, to praise God loudly for the display of power they
have seen, and to cry out,

“Blessed be He who comes as king in the name of the Lord!
Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest!”

This sounds a lot like the angels’ announcement to the shepherds
at Jesus’ birth.  The crowds are now confirming, based on their
own experience of Jesus, what the angels had proclaimed.
This exclamation is taken from Psalm 118:26 (117:26 in Bibles with
alternate numbering), which was recited at the Passover meal, so it
would have been on the minds of these excited pilgrims coming to
Jerusalem for the Passover (and it was common for clusters of pilgrims
to sing psalms as they caught sight of the holy city).  It’s striking to
see how appropriate this psalm is, as it refers to the victory and
salvation of the Lord, to the stone which the builders rejected becoming
the cornerstone (Jesus applies this verse to Himself in Matthew 21:42,
Mark 12:10 & Luke 20:17), and even to joining in procession with leafy
branches (which they were doing).  It was a time for rejoicing–so much
so, that when the Pharisees told Jesus to silence His followers, He
replied that if they kept silent, the very rocks would cry out!

The theme of the readings shifts quickly, even as did the loyalty of the
crowd.  The ones who praise Him today will betray, desert and condemn
Him within the week.  He knew it would happen.  That’s what He’d come
for.  He would be as humble and majestic in the face of mockery and
betrayal as He was now in the midst of cheering crowds.  He would be
Himself in every situation.  He was the model from whom Paul learned
to be content, no matter what the circumstances (see Philippians
4:11-13), and it was because of this humility and obedience, this
self-emptying, that God highly exalted Him, giving Him the Name above
all names,

“so that at Jesus’ Name,
every knee must bend
in the heavens, on the earth,
and under the earth,
and every tongue proclaim
to the glory of God the Father:
JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!” (Philippians 2:10-11)

Now thats something to celebrate!

May the rocks never get the upper hand
when it comes to praising the Lord!

May God bless your Lenten praise

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