Opening the Word: Pomp to redemption

By:

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


Recent

Population shift

Monday, April 22, 2019
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion It is a sign of what is happening. Another new Catholic church in the Atlanta archdiocese has opened, Mary Our Queen. It... Read More

Opening the Word: The great perhaps

Friday, April 19, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley There are words that change everything. “It’s a boy.” “I will love you forever.” “You... Read More

Catholics weigh in on closing southern border

Wednesday, April 17, 2019
By: Brian Fraga In moves criticized by Catholic immigration advocates as short-sighted and counterproductive, President Donald Trump in recent... Read More

Change of heart

Monday, April 15, 2019
By: Teresa Tomeo “The people that need to be in the seats just won’t show up.” This was one of the most common concerns expressed... Read More

Opening the Word: Pomp to redemption

Friday, April 12, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley In the Church’s liturgy, Palm Sunday is strange. While liturgical prayer often will transition from sorrow to joy or... Read More

Four takeaways from new papal document ‘Christus Vivit’

Wednesday, April 10, 2019
By: Gretchen R. Crowe More than a few times throughout his six-year pontificate, Pope Francis has related how important he believes dialogue... Read More

An anti-religious world

Monday, April 8, 2019
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion The news bulletin hit me. An arsonist had attacked the great Church of St. Sulpice in Paris. A few years ago, Our Sunday... Read More

Opening the Word: The newness of God

Friday, April 5, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley God does new things. This is the presumption that drives the narrative of the Scriptures. In the prophet Isaiah, we hear... Read More

Featured National

Wednesday, April 3, 2019
By: Brian Fraga   Whether it’s for academics or other reasons, many same-sex couples across the country want to enroll their children in... Read More

An indirect gift

Monday, April 1, 2019
By: Teresa Tomeo The Pure Flix Entertainment film “Unplanned,” based on the book by former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby... Read More