The Palm Sunday Old and New Testament readings (together with the Psalm) for the Eucharist are identical for all three years
[ISAIAH 50: 4 – 7; PHILIPPIANS 2: 6 – 11; and PSALM 22]. This year (Cycle C) only the two Gospel readings are specifically allocated [LUKE 19: 28 – 40; and 22: 14 – 23.56]. The first reference applies to the Solemn Blessing of the Palms and the Entrance Procession, while the second is Luke’s account of the Passion.
In all four Gospel versions of the Passion, the Lectionary provides a ‘shorter form’! If, for some very pressing reason, your Parish celebration proclaims this abridged version please make time during the day to read the full version. We really should take no ‘short cuts’ at the very beginning of Holy Week. It is interesting to note that it is only John’s version which makes no mention of the fact that “Peter followed at a distance.” If we start off at a distance how far away will we be by the time we come to Good Friday and Easter itself?
There are two points worth reflecting on in the Gospel reading allocated for the Blessing of the Palms. The first is the fact that
“the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice …” Our participation in and all through this Holy Week really needs to have an ENTHUSIASM. We should adopt an approach ofhappy thanksgiving for the fact that we are able to CELEBRATE yet another Holy Week. This celebration must be founded on our own individual and personal proclamation –“blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! PEACE …..” Holy Week must never take on overtones (or under ones) of dirges and breast-beating. Palm Sunday must set the tone for all the days that follow – even Good Friday itself. If we are unable to rejoice on Good Friday the real joy of Easter will elude us.
The second point is to be found in the fact that the Pharisees
“said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples’.” This request was firmly rejected by Jesus – “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” We really cannot afford to be ‘silent’ and leave the expressions of joy to liturgical or inanimate symbols. We should not attempt to ‘do’ Holy Week by proxy! We have to get into it ourselves. Black vestments are not worn in Holy Week …. red and white only! I am always confounded by those few priests who still insist on wearing BLACK for Requiem Masses? Why darkness and gloom for the celebration of a LIFE which has been LIVED in order to progress from life to LIFE?!
All of this is summed up quite splendidly by one of the Psalms
[24 or 23] chosen to be proclaimed during the solemn entrance procession. The final stanza commences with the words “O gates, lift high your heads …. let him enter, the king of glory.” Holy Week is the time for us to lift our heads high, and let Christ the King enter into our joyful participation. We are celebrating in joyful remembrance not only of Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem but Christ’s decisive insertion of himself into the authentic living of our lives. “I have come that you may have life, and have it in all its fullness.” [John 10:10] A maudlin, reluctant and downbeat participation in Holy Week has no place in our lives. A happy and joyful participation in Holy Week is the door we pass through in order to achieve a happy, blessed, Easter.
Note well the order of verses in the
NEW TESTAMENT READING [PHILIPPIANS 2: 6 – 11] of today’s Mass. Paul begins with a clear reference to the servant Christ who, in obedience, suffered “even death on a cross.” However, what follows is all-important …. “the name which is above every name … every knee should bow … every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
This is not the language of maudlin dirges. On the contrary it is a clarion call for Christians to begin a joyful celebration of Holy Week …..
GLORY AND PRAISE TO YOU, O CHRIST!