‘Look, your king comes to you: he is humble, he rides on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” The Liturgy for Palm Sunday begins with the remembrance of Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Here Christ was welcomed as the Messiah, the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. Here Jesus was welcomed into the city venerated above all others as God’s dwelling place.
At the beginning of Holy Week we open our lives to Christ, inviting him to be our guide for the days ahead. Let him be for us, as he was for the citizens of Jerusalem long ago, the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Let the palms we bear, woven into the pattern of
a cross, express the joy of our welcome and our willingness to bear his cross.
As we enter the church to begin the Mass of Palm Sunday, the joy of the exultant crowd gives way to the sombre reality of Christ’s Passion and death.
In many ways the Hosannas sung during our palm procession anticipate a joy that will be revealed in its fullness on
Throughout Holy Week we are summoned to share in the glory of our Risen Lord but can do so only to the extent that we embrace the humility of a king who began this week on a donkey, a beast of burden.
Like St Peter’s protestation at the Last Supper, “Though all lose faith in you, I will never lose faith”, ours can be a superficial faith. We so easily accept the Lord’s invitation to take up his cross daily and follow him, and yet how can we possibly understand the depths of a suffering so gladly borne?
Christ’s agony in the garden takes us beyond the brutality that lay ahead, enabling us to glimpse something of the inner obedience that enabled its acceptance. “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.”
Those words were spoken from the frailty that Christ had embraced in our humanity, from a distress and sadness of abandonment that was totally overwhelming. He could not rely on humanity’s strength any more than we can. He could trust only in the Father, and his only peace on that dreadful night was in his surrender to the Father’s will.
The words of the Prophet Isaiah describe the inner dimensions of a truly Christ-like surrender to the will of the Father: “The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue. Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord opened my ear. For my part I made no resistance, neither did I turn away.”
The Lord’s Passion did not stand alone. It flowed from a lifetime of listening prayer, a prayerful attentiveness to the Father’s will. It is only too easy for us to listen to what our own hearts are telling us. Only with the grace of humble and persistent listening can we reach beyond ourselves to the will of the Father. Let us pray for the same Spirit that listened in Jesus. So as to listen and discern, Christ did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself.
During the days ahead may we share Christ’s emptiness, entrusting ourselves, with him, to the Father who raised him high, giving him a name above all other names.