Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
March 14, 2019 Cycle C
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.B., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine,
Sunday Reading Meditations
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today’s liturgy starts with the triumphant entrance into Jerusalem and ends with the passion. We started with the palm branches of acclamation and finished by contemplating the tree of the cross. Palm Sunday is a liturgy of contrasts: we pass from glory to the cross. Christian life consists of contrasts. It is a paradox. The green palm branches anticipate and promise the glory of the tree of the cross. From the dead wood of the cross will sprout eternal life, as the hymn says: “O cross of Christ! O glorious tree.”
“He emptied himself […] he humbled himself.” With these words, Saint Paul describes Jesus’ Passion. The center of Jesus’ life was not himself. It was the Father’s will. Saint Peter writes in his First Letter: “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” Peter was inviting the Christians of Rome to follow the example of Christ’s humility, which is the essence of Christian life. Nowadays, once again, Peter is reminding us of our path. Pope Francis, through his example and teaching, is calling the Church to return to humility, to follow the steps of the Master. The new Pope has been reminding us of Jesus’ words: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23) and: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Lk 14:11).
During Pope Francis’ first Mass after his election, the new successor of the fisherman said to the cardinals: “When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly […].”
Pope Francis has been inviting us to have the courage to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s cross.
Jesus’ cross is the narrow door that opens our lives to treasures of infinite glory: a more human life that is happier and at peace. Humility is a means but the end is glory. Humility is the path but glory is our destiny.
“He humbled himself […] because of this, God greatly exalted him […]” (Phil 2:8–9). As we start Holy Week, let us ask for the grace of renewed and increased desire to follow Jesus crucified to the promised glory. Amen.