Weekly homily from Fr Thomas Renshaw SJ and Fr Peter L'Estrange SJ
Palm Sunday of the Passion of The Lord - Year A
Most of us have memories of Palm Sundays past, often with the Solemn Entrance and the Procession (and our being reminded that some palms were later to be burned to provide ashes for the following Ash Wednesday).
In these strange days it would be good to re-acquaint ourselves with the readings for this Sunday, especially from the Gospel of Matthew (21:1-11 - the royal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and 26:14 - 27:66 [longer] or 27:11-54 [shorter] - the Passion). We could do worse, as well perhaps, than listen to J. S. Bach's "St Matthew Passion".
The Gospel account of Our Lord's Passion is a story of many things that are askew. It is a tale of betrayal and judicial murder. It is full of disappointment and disarray. It is full of pain, at many levels. Every human being who is named or noticed in the Passion is someone charged with choice. And so it is with us. With Matthew's account, we might especially notice Judas (27:3-10) and Pilate (27:19-24). One of the central, traditional Christian teachings is, as we say in the Creed, that it is for us, and for our salvation, that God's Son becomes our brother: he makes our sake his own sake, through and through.
Palm Sunday can provoke us to think about Jesus, and about what he signifies to us, and this can come from what people have understood from palms. Palms, cultivated as long as wheat or olives or grapevines, have been valued because they were fruitful with the date. The palm has been the emblem of life and sustenance. Christ is the one who nourishes us - like dates, or water, in the desert . He is the embodied life of God himself. He is the living palm, budding and fruitful for us beyond death. Palms also became the standard badge for yearning Christian pilgrims who were, over thousands of years, bound for Jerusalem. They sought to get to the foreign place where Jesus walked and ate and died and rose. Jesus was a pilgrim himself, hungry for God. On this day he came into his intimately loved city, determined to find his Father's living presence there. Palms also traditionally stand for victory or triumph, as we recognise in some of the awards we know, embodying the journey of growth and the fruit to which it has given issue. We ask to know anew that Christ in triumph conquers mortality, and viciousness, and demoralisation, and futility, and is the vindicator of life.
Some members of the Jewish community support their colleagues during High Holy Days with the saying "Easy fasting".
We move to the Week we call Holy. In the words of today's greeting, "Therefore, with all faith and devotion, let us commemorate the Lord's entry into the city for our salvation, following in his footsteps so that, being made by his grace partakers of the Cross, we may have a share also in his Resurrection and his life".
Peter L'Estrange SJ