Gospel Reflections

Feast of Palm Sunday

Matthew 26:14 - 27, 66

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Brigid Rose Tiernan

Published: April 09, 2017


All four Gospels speak of Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem for the annual celebration of the Passover. Jesus and his companions must have been among thousands of visitors heading for Jerusalem to celebrate the commemoration of their delivery from Egypt which had set them en route for the Promised Land. Now, being incorporated into the Roman Empire gave Jews in the diaspora, coming from Egypt, Phoenicia, Syria, Macedonia, Greece and the shores of the Black Sea, fewer border problems on this journey and more and more of them travelled to Jerusalem for the feast each year. However, the heightened presence of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem at this time was a reminder to them that they certainly were not a liberated people, that their liberation was still to come. Were some of them who had met and heard Jesus hopeful that he indeed would be their deliverer from this very different form of “slavery” binding them?

Why, we may wonder, did Jesus make this journey on this occasion? Why did he organize a dramatic entrance for himself into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey? Was he confident that those travelling with him, some of whom may have made the four-day journey from Galilea with him, would understand the message concealed in arriving in the city on a donkey, in contrast with the Romans whose solemn entry would have been on powerful horses?  What would have been the interactions between Jesus and his fellow pilgrims on this journey south? What relationships may have developed among them? We don’t know the answers to these questions, but perhaps those who cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,” were sincere at that moment.

A few days later is it another crowd of pilgrims who call out for Jesus’ Crucifixion? Perhaps the “Hosanna” people were not among them, but certainly among that angry fickle crowd would have been some who had listened to Jesus, maybe even been moved and healed by him. We all know how crowds quickly develop their own personality and how individuals caught up in mob excitement can so easily lose their own individuality and sense of purpose.  How easily crowds and those that make them up can be manipulated!

What crowd behaviour today can lure us into its aggressive mindlessness?  How do we hold on to our own deep sense of purpose and rightness?  Are we as followers of Jesus being reminded on this Palm Sunday to pursue the way of truth even at the cost of aloneness and ridicule? Have we the courage to be dramatically simple in our complicated and sophisticated societies? As we enter this 2017 Holy Week, following in Jesus’ footsteps, can we allow ourselves to be empowered by the Resurrection, even as we bravely face head-on our daily crosses and personal and societal failures? A luta continua!

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