Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord – A Refection by Fr Gerardo

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This year’s celebration of Holy Week which commences with the commemoration of Palm Sunday is indeed a sad occasion for the whole world and indeed the Church too. We are painfully aware that many throughout the world in recent weeks, have lost their lives to the Covid 19 virus. We think and pray of all those who have died here at home in our own country and the many thousands who have died abroad. Our prayers and thoughts at this time are with grief stricken families who mourn loved ones. We pray also for those are sick in hospital with the virus, remembering health care professionals who work tirelessly and selflessly to bring care and compassion for those affected. I am also aware that for the first time ever, I and all my brother priests will be celebrating this week the mysteries of Christ’s Passion, death and Resurrection alone. Know that all of you are held in my prayers and I ask you in your turn, to pray for me this week.

Amidst all that afflicts our world at this time, we know that Christ is with us. He will never abandon us despite all that we see unfolding before us. He asks us therefore, to trust and have faith in him. As we begin this solemn of all weeks in our liturgical calendar, we are aware that whilst we may not be physically present in our churches to commemorate the Paschal Mystery, we are still invited nevertheless to journey with him in our hearts and with our families in our homes.

If you can, please do read and meditate the accounts of the Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, adding this prayer to your mediation:

Let us pray for all those who suffer the consequences of the current pandemic, that God the Father may grant health to the sick, strength to those who care for them, comfort to families and salvation to all the victims who have died.

Almighty ever-living God, only support of our human weakness, look with compassion upon the sorrowful condition of your children who suffer because of this pandemic; relieve the pain of the sick, give strength to those who care for them, welcome into your peace those who have died and, throughout this time of tribulation, grant that we may all find comfort in your merciful love. Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

On this Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, we reflect as Jesus enters the Holy city of Jerusalem. He does so in such a way, by sitting on a donkey and accompanied by the poor and the lowly. In this gesture, Jesus is making a definitive statement about what kind of Messiah he really is. Notice, that he doesn’t enter the city by sitting on a war horse, rather he sits on a donkey. He comes then truly, not as mighty ruler, but rather he enters the Holy City as the Prince of Peace.

In this simple gesture, Jesus is telling us that he is a Messiah for the humble, the destitute, the disadvantaged, the outcast, the sick and the lame. He is stating that he has come to liberate the oppressed, to comfort the broken-hearted and to heal the sick. He’s a Messiah who comes to save what was lost, to reconcile the sinner and to lead his people into the ways of peace.

As we begin this holiest of weeks, we seek once again, the grace of a renewed commitment. A commitment to love one another, a commitment to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others, a commitment to take up our own crosses, and a commitment to Christ himself.  To understand who Jesus is, we have to stand under the Cross.  To recognize how much God loves us, we have to realize the extent of his suffering for us and to recognise what our sins have done to him.

There have been great debates through the centuries about who ultimately was responsible for the death of the Lord. Some said the Jews. Some said the Romans. Some said both. But the Second Vatican Council, clearly basing herself on the traditional understanding from St. Paul’s letters and the earliest teachings of the Church, said that — even though clearly the sinful deeds of the Jewish leaders and Roman authorities played a part — ALL OF US have nailed Jesus to the cross by our sins. Jesus goes to  Calvary for our sins.

To realize that we are his followers, there is a sense in which we have to join Him on the Cross. Christian discipleship and the cross go hand in hand, as the journey of faith is not always an easy path for us to follow. As we begin this Holy Week, we pray that we might have the courage and the strength to follow Christ in embracing our own crosses – whatever they may be.  When we feel desolate, abandoned, defeated – when we wonder where God is – those are the moments to come to Jesus, to come to the cross. Here we unite are own sufferings with his.

On the cross Jesus takes our evil on his shoulders, he bears the full consequences of sin, including that sense of abandonment – that separation from God. But in the end he gives a loud cry – a shout of victory.    It is accomplished!

In his self giving, Jesus then comes not to rule, but to serve; he comes not for his own glory, but rather to offer the gift of his own life for our salvation. This offer is given to everyone who has ever walked the face of this earth and no one is excluded from his love and mercy. In his Passion, Jesus accomplishes the prophecy made by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, when he announced to Mary that she would conceive and bear a Son, ‘And you must call him Jesus, because he is the one to save his people from their sins’. On the cross, Jesus does precisely that.

In our turn, we rejoice, praise and above all, thank God that he has, in his Son Jesus, given us so great a redeemer!

God bless you all,

Fr Gerardo.