Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
Luke 19:28-40 (procession)
Isaiah 50:4-7
Philippians 2:6-11
Luke 22:14—23:56

 The first reading is more easily read than the others. The contrast between them is striking. We enter easily into the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We want to spread our coats on the road, praise God with joy, wave our palms and proclaim “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” Even as we cheer, the clouds are gathering, and Isaiah and St. Paul lead us to what will come.  

This is not the first time that we have heard the story of Christ’s passion. His story fits into a much longer tale. We are overcome at all that Christ has done for us. It would have been enough, we think, that Jesus was made one with us and lived among us. It should have been enough that he laughed and wept with us, that he reached out to the poor and the disenfranchised, that he suffered and died for us and is risen from the dead. This week, though, we focus on just how much Christ has loved us.

Sunday after Sunday, we hear the story of Jesus proclaimed and find God touching our lives. Like Jesus, we laugh and weep and hug children. Like Jesus, we share meals with those we love, celebrate life events, and reach out to one another in myriad ways. The echo of his life in ours is felt again and again in our liturgy and in our lives. Even as we forgive one another and are forgiven ourselves, we hear the words of absolution whispered in the background.  

Today’s Gospel is a story with which we are all familiar. Essentially, it is the narrative of the Passion and death of Christ.  It is ultimately the story of pouring self out for others.  Each of us is called to empty self and to embrace the cross. This is the meaning of the Passion Sunday liturgy. This emptiness and this willingness to accept the cross is so that we might be filled with the life of Christ. Our anticipation of Easter fills the void so that we can fulfill our Eucharistic promise: to pour self out for others as Christ has been poured out for us.

During this liturgy, we remember the physical suffering of Jesus — the crown of thorns, the lash of the whip.  We remember, too, the hurt that came from the apostles’ lack of understanding, Jesus’ feeling of abandonment.

Christian commitment is a willingness to take our place at the foot of Jesus’ cross.  There will be nothing for us to do but to be.  We may not be able to alleviate physical pain or mental anguish, but we can look to the community around us — at all those willing to proclaim their faith—and by embracing them, relieve their pain.