Palm Sunday (6th Sunday of Lent) Year A ~ March 26, 2023

Palm Sunday (6th Sunday of Lent) Year A ~ March 26, 2023


Today we begin our Holy Week: a solemn celebration of our Lord’s Passion, death, and Resurrection. All four gospels mention the triumph entry of the Lord to Jerusalem. Is it the only time Jesus has come to Jerusalem? If not, then why does this entry have importance for the Evangelists?  The Gospel according to St. Luke mentions that Jesus was in Jerusalem when He was 12 in accordance with the custom of his parents who used to come every year to participate in the solemn celebration of Passover. If so, then what is the importance and significance of Jesus’s entry to Jerusalem?  The Psalmist is inviting everyone to “Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors!  that the King of glory may come in.  Who is the King of glory?  The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle.  Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory” (Psalm 24:7-10). Palm Sunday is a day where we all come together to rejoice in the Lord that he has taken the journey of our salvation as Prophet Zechariah says “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey: (Zechariah 9:9).

Today as Lord takes on the important journey of his life to suffer and die for us, he wants to understand that he is Emmanuel who is not with us but also keeps encouraging us: “Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.  The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem.  Be silent, all people, before the Lord; for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling” (Zechariah 2:10-13). His triumphant entry to Jerusalem is helping us to understand that in our pain and suffering, he is there to console us “Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God and believe also in me” (John 14:1). He keeps calling us “Come to me all that are weary and crying heavy burden and I will give you rest”. Prophet Zephaniah encourages us to rejoice in the Lord who has the power to restore everything back: “Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!  The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more on that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (3:14-17).

There was a father who left 17 camels as an asset for his three sons. When the father passed away, his sons opened the will. The Will of the father stated that the eldest son should get half of 17 camels while the middle son should be given 1/3rd (one-third). The youngest son should be given 1/9th (one-ninth) of the 17 camels.

As it is not possible to divide 17 into half or 17 by 3 or 17 by 9, three sons started to fight with each other. How can they divide their father’s inheritance?

Do you have any thoughts about how to divide 17 camels among three sons as prescribed in their father’s will?

You may take your time to think before reading further…

So, three sons decided to go to a wise man.

The wise man listened patiently about the whole matter i.e. dividing 17 camels as follows:

½ to the eldest son, 1/3rd to the middle son and 1//9th to the youngest – How is it possible?

So, the wise man, after giving this thought, brought one camel of his own and added the same to 17. That increased the total to 18 camels.

Now, he started reading the deceased father’s will.

Half of 18 = 9. So, he gave the eldest son 9 camels.

1/3rd of 18 = 6. So, he gave the middle son 6 camels.

1/9th of 18 = 2. So, he gave the youngest son 2 camels.

Now add this up: 9 plus 6 plus 2 is 17 and this leaves one camel, which the wise man took away.

This journey of our Lord is one of inheritance left behind us to have our own share in his death and resurrection. There are many aspects related to his journey towards Jerusalem.  He is riding on the donkey (shows his humility) and people are spreading their clothes on the ground and shouting Hosanna, Hosanna…However, there are some very important aspects to remember. This entry of Jesus to Jerusalem has exposed the real faces of people. First, it has exposed the faces of his own disciples who used to claim that even if they must die with him or for him, they will, but when the time came, what did they do? One of them sold him for 30 pieces of silver, other denied him completely by saying he doesn’t know him at all. Some of them ran away when he was arrested by the Roman Authorities. Don’t we do the same? We do because we have no guts to stand for him. We like to serve both; him and the world. The world is divided into two with the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. Why so? I believe this is the final moment of Jesus’ life before he will be arrested, mocked, derided, beaten, crucified and die.   In Jerusalem, the conflict started right with the birth of Jesus as the whole Jerusalem was shocked and shaken to hear about a new king was born.  The leaders of the nation did not like what Jesus was doing and they always stood against him. But with the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem, as Gospels narrate that they plotted against him how to kill him as the Psalmist says, “For I hear the whispering of many— terror all around! —as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life” (Psalm 31:13, and please read Wisdom 4:10-15; Jeremiah 18:18-23).

We betray him when we refuse to stand for our faith because we don’t want to offend others. Secondly, there is a test for people who are shouting Hosanna, Hosanna. The same crowd because of the fear will be shouting Crucify him, Crucify him. Are we not doing the same thing right now? I believe we do because we have failed to understand what is right and what is wrong. Since we don’t want to be excluded from our relationships, we continue to join the society and do what others are doing. People who are advocating immoral things, Right has become Wrong and Wrong and has become Right and unfortunately, we have fallen into the same trap.

This journey in which we walk with the Lord, should have become the source of unity and love but it became the journey of tests for everyone. Is it easy to walk with the world when we asked to shut down our voices and not to speak about Jesus. Vatican II reminds us that See, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah… I will plant my law within them and inscribe it in their hearts. I will be their God and they shall be my people… All shall know me, from the least to the greatest, says the Lord. It was Christ who established this new covenant, the New Testament in his blood, calling into being, from Jews and Gentiles, a people that was to form a unity, not in human fashion but in the Spirit, as the new people of God. Those who believe in Christ, reborn not of corruptible but of incorruptible seed through the word of the living God, not from the flesh but from water and the Holy Spirit, are constituted in the fullness of time as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people God has made his own, once no people but now the people of God. This messianic people has Christ as its head: Christ who was given up for our sins and rose again for our justification; bearing now the name that is above every name, he reigns in glory in heaven. His people enjoy the dignity and freedom of the children of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in a temple. They have as their law the new commandment of loving as Christ himself has loved us. They have as their goal the kingdom of God, begun on earth by God himself and destined to grow until it is also brought to perfection by him at the end of time, when Christ, our life, will appear, and creation itself will be freed from slavery to corruption and take on the freedom of the glory of God’s children. This messianic people, then, though it does not in fact embrace all mankind and often seems to be a tiny flock, is yet the enduring source of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race. It is established by Christ as a communion of life, of love and of truth; it is also used by him as an instrument for the redemption of all and is sent out into the world as the light of the world and the salt of the earth. The Israel of old was already called the Church of God while it was on pilgrimage through the desert. So, the new Israel, as it makes its way in this present age, seeking a city that is to come, a city that will remain, is also known as the Church of Christ, for he acquired it by his own blood, filled it with his Spirit, and equipped it with appropriate means to be a visible and social unity. God has called together the assembly of those who in faith look on Jesus, the author of salvation and the principle of unity and peace, and so has established the Church to be for each and all the visible sacrament of this unity which brings with it salvation”.

We must understand as we begin our Holy Week with Palm Sunday that our lives have been bought by the Blood of Christ and must walk with him everyday in the midst of our persecutions because St. Paul says, “no one can separate us from the Love of Christ”. St, Andrew of Crete keep encouraging us; “Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward Jerusalem, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at his coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us”.

In his humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature to raise us up again to himself. And even though we are told that he has now ascended above the highest heavens—the proof, surely, of his power and godhead—his love for man will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory and made it one with his own in heaven. So, let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel.

Lastly a test for the bandits who are with him on the cross. One of them knows what he did was absolutely wrong however the other was not ready to accept or repent from what he had done wrong. He was accusing and mocking Jesus. Isn’t it our own story? I guess so, because we have learned to blame others rather than accepting our failures and sins. Whatsoever, the conclusion of this journey is so powerful, in spite of the unfaithfulness of the people, he showed his love for us by dying on the Cross. He has reminded us “There is no greater love than to lay your own life for the sake of one’s friend”.

One Easter Sunday morning, a pastor came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Several eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, the pastor began to speak.

“I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me, swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad and asked, “What you got there, son?”

“Just some old birds,” came the reply.

“What are you gonna do with them?” I asked.

“Take ’em home and have fun with ’em. I’m gonna tease ’em and pull out their feathers to make ’em fight. I’m gonna have a real good time.”

“But you’ll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?”

“Oh, I got some cats. They like birds. I’ll take ’em to them.”

The pastor was silent for a moment. “How much do you want for those birds, son?”

“Huh??!!! Why, you don’t want them birds, mister. They’re just plain old field birds. They don’t sing – they ain’t even pretty!”

“How much?”

The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, “$10?”.

The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten-dollar bill. He placed it in the boy’s hand. In a flash, the boy was gone.

The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.

Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story.

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting.

“Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn’t resist. Got ’em all!”

“What are you going to do with them?” Jesus asked.

“Oh, I’m gonna have fun! I’m gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other. How to hate and abuse each other. How to drink and smoke and curse. How to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I’m really gonna have fun!”

“And what will you do when you get done with them?”, Jesus asked.

“Oh, I’ll kill ’em.”

“How much do you want for them?”

“Oh, you don’t want those people. They ain’t no good. Why, if you take them and they’ll just hate you. They’ll spit on you, curse you and kill you!! You don’t want those people!!”

“How much?”

Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, “All your tears, and all your blood.” Jesus paid the price.

The pastor picked up the cage he opened the door and he walked from the pulpit.

That’s why Palm Sunday invites us to walk with him because “he will take all our iniquities and infirmities onto him” as Prophet Isaiah says. He has saved us from the fear of death and have given us new life to rejoice in him. May the Loving Saviour who died and suffered for us, help us to journey with him so that we may bear fruit for everlasting life. Amen