Opening the Word: Pomp to redemption


In the Church’s liturgy, Palm Sunday is strange. While liturgical prayer often will transition from sorrow to joy or from lament to praise, on Palm Sunday the Church moves us from pomp to pathos.

We gather with palms in hand to praise the coming of the great king. He enters Jerusalem on a donkey, with cries of praise from the crowds. The Pharisees murmur against Jesus, but he warns, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out” (Lk 19:40).

To the reader of this text, the ascension of Christ to the throne of David seems inevitable. The crowds are prepared to fete him as king on this most holy feast of Passover.

Liturgically, we are that crowd. We are those gathered with palm branches in hand, singing out “Hosanna!”

But what kind of crowd are we? For the very same crowd that celebrated Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem with pomp will also turn against him.

In Luke’s account of Christ’s passion, we hear about the disciples having one last argument about who is greatest in the Kingdom. We hear Peter’s voice stand out among the crowd, promising a fidelity that he cannot maintain. We see the disciples fall asleep, unable to stay awake for but an hour. We see Judas condemn Christ with a kiss. Judas doesn’t come alone but with a crowd prepared to arrest Christ.

We are privy to a council of elders who question Jesus. They demand from him proof of his identity. The crowd brings charges against Christ.

It is the crowd that demands the crucifixion of Jesus above that of Barabbas. It is the crowd that gathers not just to see Jesus crucified and tortured by a foreign state. The bloodlust of the crowd has come to see the death of the two thieves. It is the crowd that scatters when Jesus dies, except for a few of the faithful women and Joseph of Arimathea.

How does a crowd willing to crown Jesus as king turn so quickly to participate in a festival of his death?

When we Christians profess that Jesus has come to save the world from sin, the bloodlust of the crowd is what we mean. We don’t just mean our propensity to tell a white lie. We mean that there is something so deeply disordered about the human condition that we are capable of doing the worst to one another, even to the Word made flesh.

Jesus takes upon himself the darkness of the world, the darkness of an age in which crowds delight in the death of fellow human beings.

This world, dear friends, has been conquered through Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. It can’t win. But, it is still trying.

It tries when we ignore the dignity of the human person, reducing the unborn and migrant alike to disposable objects. It tries when leaders within the Church, those who are descendants of the apostles, are more concerned about the privilege their position affords them than conforming themselves to the Word made flesh. It tries when we find ourselves turning on each other in our parishes, creating disharmony where communion should reign.

The warning of Palm Sunday is that it’s easy for us to move from praise to blame. Even faithful Catholics can fall into the bitter fruits of sin.

The gift of Easter, as we will see, is that we also can move from blame to redemption, from death to new life.

Palm Sunday of The Lord’s Passion – April 14, 2019
LK 19:28-40
IS 50:4-7
PS 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
PHIL 2:6-11
LK 22:14–23:56 OR LK 23:1-49

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Opening the Word: The world’s satisfaction

Friday, May 24, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Scriptural numbers have meaning. In the Book of Revelation, the city of Jerusalem is designated as a city saturated with... Read More

Motu proprio’ provides firm, universal response

Wednesday, May 22, 2019
by: Kurt Martens The document Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”), issued motu proprio (“on his own... Read More

Seeking something better

Monday, May 20, 2019
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Once upon a time, the Byles family, with Irish origins, lived in England. One son, Thomas, remained in England and was... Read More

Catholic graduates are called to be a collective force for good

Wednesday, May 15, 2019
By: Brian Fraga               As the school year wraps up, tens of... Read More

Can you hear them now?

Monday, May 13, 2019
By: Teresa Tomeo During one of his visits to his native Germany early in his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the need for silence in our... Read More

Opening the Word: Church prophecy

Friday, May 10, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley At present, critique of the Church has reached a fever pitch within American society. One cannot read a non-Catholic media... Read More

Green New Deal reframes climate issues

Wednesday, May 8, 2019
By: Brian Fraga The so-called Green New Deal, particularly because of its lead congressional sponsor, is controversial and polarizing, but the... Read More

Gift to the Church

Monday, May 6, 2019
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion My first visit to this storied church was long ago. I was a seminarian on holiday touring Europe. I have returned to... Read More

Opening the Word: Winning in weakness

Friday, May 3, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley When we hear the word “apocalyptic,” images of wrath and destruction come to mind — blockbuster films... Read More

Number of ‘nones’ ties with Catholics

Wednesday, May 1, 2019
By: Brian Fraga  Americans who do not identify with any religion — the so-called “nones” — are now as big a part of... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!