Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord [A]

First Reading Isaiah 50:4-7
Second Reading Philippians 2:6-11
Gospel Matthew 26:14—27:66

“Rather, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave....”

In the year A.D. 30, Jesus of Nazareth found His Name being shouted loudly. Today, we join in the shouting. The question, though, is what we shout along with His name. As we cry the name of Jesus Christ, are we crying “Hosanna to Jesus!”, or are we crying “Crucify Him!”?

This question—this two-edged sword—is why this day has two names: Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. Each of you, as a Christian, is a member of Christ’s Body. So in all that you do, you either bring glory to Christ’s Body, or you participate in the crucifying of Jesus. In every decision of right or wrong that we make, we shout, just as those two groups shouted two thousand years ago.

On one side of the sword is the crowd that laid their cloaks before Jesus on the path leading into Jerusalem. The other side of the sword—which pierced Jesus’ side—is the crowd mocking Jesus as he carried the Cross up the path to Calvary. With them were the soldiers who placed a military cloak around Jesus’ shoulders, and a crown of thorns upon His Sacred Head, mocking the claim that He was King of the Jews.

The sharpest cut that this two-edged sword makes is the fact that these two crowds were, for the most part, made up of the same people. In the year A.D. 30, it was largely the same people on Sunday shouting “Hosanna to Jesus!” who five days later shouted “Crucify Him!” Today, things are hardly any different.

We would prefer to consider ourselves part of the crowd on the path into Jerusalem, but in all honesty we know that we often stand along the Way of the Cross, watching Jesus as He carries the Cross. Sometimes we mock Him, and perhaps even take pleasure as He falls three times. If your reaction to this is to say, “I would never do those things to Jesus”, you might ask yourself how many people you struggle to get along with in life, and how often you mock the opinions of others, or take pleasure in the failures of others. “Whenever you do it to the least of my brothers, you do so to me” [Mt 25:40].

We shout a lot in life. We shout like the crowd along the Way of the Cross. But what are we doing to help Our Lord as He walks that path towards Calvary? We know that He must carry the Cross. If you walked up to Our Lord and asked Him to put the Cross down, He would not do so. This is how much He loves you.

Jesus knows that only by carrying the Cross—that Cross that by all rights is ours—can we ever have the chance to live in this world in peace, and forever in Heaven, we hope. Jesus knows that only by hanging upon the Cross to the point of expiration can we ever have the chance for the Holy Spirit to dwell within our souls. Jesus knows that only by teaching us to carry a Cross for others will we ever make sense of this world, pass through it, and be led by Our Lord after death to the gates of Heaven.

So much of this world here below consists of shouting. There are people crying for our attention, telling us what a great deal they have for us. Everywhere we hear people shouting that they’ve found something that makes life easier, or something that makes sense of this world. But in fact, Christ listens to none of the shouting around Him. He does not listen to those who cry “Hosanna!” He does not listen to those who cry “Crucify Him!” Before the crowds, He does not refute, He does not debate, He does not defend Himself. He simply continues his journey to the Cross in silence.

During this week, set aside time for silence. In silence, look into your conscience and prepare yourself for Confession. In silence, read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ Passion and Death. In silence, Christ invites us to join Him on His journey. He invites us to abandon that two-edged sword, and take refuge in His pierced side.