My dear friends, after five weeks of Lent , we prepare now to celebrate what is called the Paschal Mystery: the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Saviour of the world. Today is called “Passion Sunday,” because we turn our attention now towards the Passion, the suffering and death of Jesus. This is of great importance for us as Catholic Christians, because the death of Jesus on the cross was the one sacrifice offered to God by a human being which was perfect.
By offering his life on the Cross, Jesus took upon himself our sins and won for us forgiveness and salvation. And so we approach the Passion of Jesus today with hearts filled with gratitude. And we also approach Passion of Jesus with joy because it gained for us eternal life.
While the official name for today is “Passion Sunday,” we have popularly referred to today for a long time as “Palm Sunday” because of the ritual which begins the Liturgy. During this ritual we take palm branches and bless them and then we carry them in a very special procession. We walk in Jesus footsteps in this procession. We commemorate his triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week. As we walk we sing words of praise to Jesus:“All glory, praise and honour to you Redeemer King, to whom the lips of children made glad hosannas ring.”
Whenever we have a procession in our Church, it involves moving from one place to another, a moving towards a particular place. We could very well see the Palm Sunday Procession as an image of each of our lives. Our life is a journey towards its end. Not perhaps a cheery thought!
But for Christians, the journey through life is not simply towards death. Rather our life is a journey towards the joy filled fullness of life forever where death holds no power; where there is no pain, no suffering and every tear is wiped away.
We say that we are “followers” of Jesus. That is what a Catholic Christian is: a follower of Jesus Christ our Saviour. As followers of Jesus we walk in Jesus footsteps through our whole lives, following him who is our way and our truth and our life.
We become one with Jesus in that journey of our life, making that oneness with him strong in us when we celebrate the Eucharist and receive Holy Communion. We will become one with him in his death so that we will be one with him in his resurrection. The beginning of that triumph has already take place. When we were baptized we died with Jesus and rose with him to eternal life.
Aware of all that Jesus has gained for us, now today we walk in Jesus footsteps to the cross. And in the cross we see the sign of a love that is immensely powerful, overwhelming even, and deeply comforting. We can never hear too often those words of sacred scripture given to us in the letter to the Philippians:
Christ Jesus, thought he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.
All our love is sacrificial because it means giving of ourselves to another, sacrificing our wants and ways and needs and desires in order to give to the person we love what they need for their well being and happiness. Jesus sacrificed everything for the well being and happiness of each of us.
He not only gave of himself, sacrificing his privilege, his comfort, his longings and his dreams, he emptied himself. His life became like that of a slave, the least human of all states in life. He died the most shameful and agonizing death, making himself one with the most suffering of humanity so that we could live forever with him in glory.
There is not one of us on earth, who in our misery and suffering can say that God does not understand what is happening to us. Nor can we say that God is not there in our pain, our sorrows, our fears and our hopelessness. Jesus, the Lord, the Son of God, has taken all of us, all our pain and suffering and sinfulness and has joined us to himself as he offered his life to the Father on the Cross.
And so“God highly exalted him...so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
We have looked at the Palm Sunday procession and have seen in it an image of the journey of our lives. During that procession we sang our praise to Jesus our Redeemer King. My life, your life needs to be like that: a journey walked in the footsteps of Jesus; a journey towards the joy of heaven; a journey in which we continually sing in our hearts the praise of Jesus the Christ who emptied himself and gave his life for us. And by making our joy and our hope visible to all around us we confess to the world that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”