Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, April 2, 2023
Matthew 21:1-11 Isaiah 50:4-7 Philippians 2:6-11
There is so much to “digest” in the readings for today - including two separate gospel passages which cover some of the most significant events of Jesus’ physical presence with us here on earth. Here are some thoughts about each of our readings.
The gospel passage that is read as part of the entrance procession features the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on an ass, of all things. In a manner of speaking, his choice of such an animal serves to highlight Jesus’ preferential option for the poor and lowly. Moreover, it also drives home the point that Jesus had no need to call attention to himself by requiring a fancy parade, with grand horses and elaborate decorations, etc. He preferred that any attention focused on him would come because of the significance of his message of love and justice.
The reading from Isaiah features the prophet describing how he answered the call from God to use the special gifts of prophecy and oratory as a way to proclaim God’s message to his chosen ones, the Israelites. At this point, well into his ministry as a prophet, he is comfortable with his gifts, even though they have sometimes brought him pain and suffering - and will continue to do so. Like the prophets of God who preceded and followed him, he is compelled to speak god’s truth to the people.
The excerpt from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is both poetic and engaging in the ways that it describes Jesus’ humility, his desire to serve, and his obedience to the will of the Father. Then Paul finishes this segment with the proclamation that “every knee should bend…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Imagine Paul proclaiming these words to the Philippians, with all the passion and gusto of an eminent evangelical preacher.
And then there is the complete Passion Narrative of Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to Matthew. This story is filled with important concepts and themes; and told with all the drama and suspense of great novel. As a prayer technique for helping you engage with this gospel passage, I suggest that you choose one of the characters mentioned in this gospel and attempt to put yourself in his/her place. You could become one of the disciples, one of the soldiers (perhaps even the centurion who watched Jesus die), or his mother Mary. You could even go so far as to try to imagine what it might have been like to suffer as Jesus suffered for us. If nothing else, as you pray this week, take a word or phrase or sentence from any one of today’s readings - something that leaps off the page and into your consciousness - and just spend some time with it. This will help you go deeper into the experience of the Lord’s passion and death, as you prepare to celebrate his glorious resurrection next Sunday.
by: Bill Miller