Scripture Readings, March 24, 2024

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

At the Procession with Palms: Mark 11:1-10/John 12:12-16

Isaiah 50:4-7

Philippians 2:6-11

Mark 14:1-15:47

C.S. Lewis wrote that, “One must keep pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and if true, is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.” Like it or not, there is no static activity in our spiritual lives. We are either growing closer to the Lord or growing distant. The Lord breaking into our lives always necessitates a response; will we follow him or fade away?

Celebrating the beginning of Holy Week with Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, we are invited to consider anew Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Just days later, the crowd that greeted him with shouts of praise and joy will cry, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” as they make a demand for his life. It might be tempting to distance ourselves from this fickle crowd, but sadly, we can be equally inconsistent in our fidelity to the Lord. Meditate on the words of St. Paul to the Romans, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.”

Like the crowds, we stand at the entrance to the church with palms in our hand, symbolizing Christ as Messiah, and our acceptance of this identity. The long-awaited Messiah was one who would defeat the enemies of Israel and unite its scattered tribes; he would cleanse the Temple and reign as Lord of the nations. In carrying these palms, we are saying to the world that there is only one true King of Kings and Lord of Lords: Jesus Christ.

To shift at times so seamlessly, like the crowds, between laudative shouts of “Hosanna!” and the violent echo of “Crucify him!” illustrates the tension between our desire for a savior and our expectations for salvation feeling unfulfilled. This theme is rife throughout the New Testament, as Jesus is consistently testing the interior disposition of his disciples, famously asking them, “Who do you say I am?” This question looms large in our spiritual lives and, as C.S. Lewis reminds us, is a question of “infinite importance.”

Throughout Holy Week, we see the crowds, the disciples, the Romans, the Pharisees — everyone, really — wrestling with this question. And how we choose to answer this question is of paramount importance. Do we believe that Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life?” As Christians, answering that question in the affirmative begets more than just an interior response; it should also manifest an exterior disposition. In other words, who we say that Christ is should dictate how we live our lives. Have we given Christ our whole heart, mind and soul? (Matthew 22:37) Or, like the disciples, are we overly concerned with how the crowds will react to our fidelity to him?

As we enter into this Holy Week, all Christians are tasked with walking with Jesus through his Passion, Death and Resurrection. If we want to rejoice with him in the joy of Easter and the triumphant victory over sin and death, we must stay close to the Lord. We should not fear the Lord’s admonition: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” There should be no place we would rather be than with the Lord; in the upper room, in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the courtyard, on the path to Calvary and at the tomb. Only by staying close to the Lord can we be a new Magdalene to the world, announcing that we have seen the Lord and he is truly risen! (John 20:18)