Photo illustration by Phil Younk
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Based on the Gospel of Matthew 21:1-11 and 26:14-27;66
Jerusalem is buzzing with excitement and overflowing with people. Crowds are gathering to celebrate Passover, the yearly feast when Jews remember God saved them from Egyptian slavery. They also want to see Jesus, the miracle-worker and teacher.
The crowds press in around Jesus waving palm branches and spreading their cloaks on the road as he rides a donkey into Jerusalem to celebrate Passover with his disciples. The crowds enthusiastically and joyfully cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” “Hosanna” means “Save us!”
The Jews have been waiting for a political Messiah to free them from the Roman rulers. The crowds greet Jesus as a king. Jesus comes not as a warrior king riding a spirited stallion or in a glittering chariot, but as a Messiah of peace riding a humble donkey a few days before his death on the cross. It is said that is the reason donkeys have a cross marked out in soft dark fur on their gray backs.
With all the crowds’ excitement and frenzy, the chief priests are furious because they fear Jesus will have more power over the Jews than they will, and that the Roman rulers will then punish everyone. They secretly plan to kill Jesus.
In five days, the crowds’ cheers turn to jeers. The Gospel continues with all the events leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross and burial. This reading of the Gospel is called the “Passion,” from the Latin word “passio” which means “suffering.” Beginning with Judas betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and ending with the sealing of Jesus’ tomb, we hear about Jesus’ final hours of earthly life: the Last Supper, Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Jesus being betrayed, arrested, falsely accused and deserted by his friends. Beaten, spat upon, ridiculed and crowned with thorns, Jesus’ bloodied, bruised and pain-racked body is then stripped and nailed to the cross.
Palm (Passion) Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week, the most important week of the year when we recall Jesus’ love for us and all that happened to him during that first Holy Week – praise and celebration, betrayal, treachery, brutal suffering, death and Resurrection.
Spend Holy Week preparing for the glorious feast of Easter:
• Read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ Passion (Lk: 22 and 23; Mk: 14 and 15; Mt: 26 and 27; Jn: 18 and 19).
• Have more quiet time – turn off the TV, computer and all other high-tech electronic gadgets.
• Pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross.
• Attend church on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
Holy Week tells us the world’s greatest love story!