Lectionary Reflection: Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord, Year B

Lectionary Readings: Mk 11:1-10 (Procession) / Is 50:4-7 / Ps 22 / Phil 2:6-11 / Mk 14:1-15:47

Holy Week has once again come to the Catholic Church with the Liturgy of Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord. For many, this Holy Week will be memorable because it may mark as Lent that has been dragging on for more than a year, particularly because of the absence of Holy Week Liturgies. However, I share in the pain with those who cannot partake in in-person liturgies either because of health risks, or because churches are closed in their respective dioceses. We pray that this pandemic will soon end so that we may soon be able to safely gather for public worship, because Catholic Liturgy is not meant to be celebrated virtually, but physically, with the people, because the sacraments are not meant to celebrated virtually, but physically, just as Christ makes Himself physically present among His people in the Eucharist.

Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Mk 11:9b-10

Jesus triumphantly comes into the city of Jerusalem as the people wave their palm branches, put their cloaks on the street, making sort of a red-carpet for Jesus the King to go through, while shouting, “Hosanna!” We may think that the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem comes out of nowhere: Jesus sitting on a donkey comes into town and people know Jesus is here. However, let us put this into context of Mark’s Gospel that we read at the beginning of Mass at the procession. The excerpt read today comes from the first ten verses of the Mark’s eleventh chapter. However, preceding right before this, at the end of Mark’s tenth chapter (Mk 10:46-52), people were left amazed with the words and actions of Jesus in Jericho. Jericho was about 24km from Jerusalem. Probably the news spread from Jericho to Jerusalem that the news of this great figure was coming. Thus, the people were out on the streets welcoming. Understanding Jesus’ great works and knowing that the prophecy of the Messiah in Jerusalem was being fulfilled as stated in the book of Zechariah, “Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (9:9, cf. Mt 21:5)

However, the “triumphant and victorious” Jesus, the King was not merely expressed with Jesus riding on a donkey per the prophecy and people waving palm branches. While this was a triumphant entry into Jerusalem, there was something much more triumphant to come. After the blessing of the palms and procession, we proceed in the Mass, starting with the Collect and then into the Liturgy of the Word. We see in the Lectionary readings an image of a King, not like any other king in the world. Here we read of King who was a suffering servant (cf. Is 50:4), an obedient King who was obedient to the point of death (Phil 2:8) and gave up Himself up as a sacrifice for all, even if they hated Him to the point of crying out loud, “Crucify Him!” (Mk 14:15)

Throughout this Lent, I have been thinking of the analogy of “The Gift.” Would you ever give anyone who hated you a gift… even just a chocolate bar? Would you anyone undeserving a gift? I think for many, the answer is, ‘no.’ Worse, we may express deep within negative thoughts on that person, or even want bad upon them. You would not give an undeserving person anything, right? Or at least, not many would. However, Jesus through his Passion showed that it is possible to live a selfless love, even if it meant giving your whole life to those who at the end of the day do not deserve so great of a gift.

This reflection will end there because I wish to leave it up to you to end the reflection – are you willing to give up a bit of yourself this Holy Week to take part in the Passion of Our Lord? Are you willing to imitate the King of Glory?

About Vincent Pham

Vincent is a humanities student of the University of Toronto’s Trinity College of the Faculty of Arts and Science. He hopes to pursue a double major in Ethics, Law and Society, and Philosophy.
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