PASSION OR PALM SUNDAY, C BEHOLD, THE KING ON A COLT

“The Lord needs it” (Luke 19: 31)

 

The Church recalls and celebrates Triumphant Entry of Jesus into the Holy City of Jerusalem. This Sunday is traditionally called The Palm Sunday or The Passion Sunday. It is Palm Sunday because on this occasion, more than 2000 years ago, the people welcomed Jesus with Palms branches in their hands praising God as He rode into Jerusalem (John 12: 13). The Palms symbolise joy and victory.  With joy, the multitude welcomed their King, who is victorious over sovereignty and power through obedience to the Will of the Father. It is called Passion Sunday because this day marks the beginning of the Christian Holy Week leading to the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which celebrate during the Triduum. Historically, this was the last time Jesus would go into Jerusalem, therefore this marked His last week of Jesus on earth. As He did not travel out of Jerusalem and never came out of Jerusalem alive. So on this day we commemorate Jesus, who enters into the ancient city in a manner that fulfils the old prophecy of Zechariah (9: 9) as the Messiah, yet unknown to His people. Therefore, on this day, we equally celebrate the inauguration of the final chapter of the Lord’s fulfilment of His mission and purpose on earth, namely His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

The Prophet Zechariah 9: 9 says: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem! For, see, your king is coming just and victorious. Humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This prophecy captures the entire action of Jesus on this day, with all the trappings and details earlier prophesied as presented to us in the Gospel of Luke (19: 28-40). Veiled behind this whole episode from the people was the fulfilment of what Zechariah had said in the 4th century before Christ came. Behind this also was the true identity of Jesus as The Messiah, which will take more than the events of the remaining days of the week to be unveiled. Notice the contrast between the images of a “king” and the “colt.” Why does this “king” sit on a “colt” and not on a war horse or a donkey as should be the case for a royalty? Perhaps the answer Jesus would give on the following Friday before Pilate could answer this question: “My kingship is not of this world” (John 18: 36). Jesus was truly a King, but a lot more than that. He was The Messiah, The Anointed One. Therefore, His kingly ways were not to be in the ways of the kings and royalties of this world. His ways are humble, so He had to sit on a “colt”, an animal not fit for the status of an earthly king, but a symbol of the humility of The Messiah-King, Who, though possessing all, made Himself poor in order to make us rich and save us from eternal poverty. He conquers not by wars and conquests but by humble obedience and total self-surrendering to the Will of the Father. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC. 569) succinctly puts it: “Jesus went up to Jerusalem voluntarily, knowing well that there He would die a violent death because of the opposition of sinners (cf. Hebrews 12: 3)”. Jesus’ last trip was free, just as His death was both an expression of obedience to the Father and love for us all.

It is significant that it was the “whole multitude of His disciples” who sang and praised God: these were the poor ones, the ignorant, the proletariats or the hoipoloi, if you like. The Pharisees, who were expected to have known Who was on this “foal of a donkey”, having studied the Torah and the prophets did not. They were blinded by their stereotype, envy, and hatred against Jesus. How true that God chose “to hide these things from the wise and the learned and revealed them to mere children” (Matthew 11: 25). This praise of “the multitude” forms part of the Sanctus we sing at every celebration of the Eucharist. Pope Benedict XVI explains the theological significance of this in this beautiful way:

Just as the Lord entered the Holy City that day on a donkey, so too the Church saw Him coming again and again in the humble form of bread and wine. The Church greets the Lord in the Holy Eucharist as the one who is coming now, the one who has entered into her midst. At the same time, she greets him as the one who continues to come, the one who leads us into His coming. As pilgrims, we go up to Him; as a pilgrim, He comes to us and takes us up with Him in His “ascent” to the Cross and Resurrection, to the definitive Jerusalem.”     

 As Jerusalem opens her gates to welcome the Messiah, unknown to her, so the Church opens her doors knowingly to welcome her Messiah, whom she knows and adores. As the poor and the humble multitude sang His praises in gratitude for “all the mighty works that they had seen” Him do, so we are called to open our hearts to welcome our Lord and to praise Him in gratitude for all the great things He has done in our lives. We are invited to journey with Jesus into Jerusalem and be present with Him in His Passion and Death so as to share in His Resurrection. Ours is a journey of hope, a walk of witness and a response of love.  

I would personally invite us to reflect on these words of our Lord throughout this Holy Week: “The Master needs it.” The Master or the Lord needed the colt to accomplish the Father’s Will. Just as the Master needed the colt, the Lord needs us today. He needs each of us to complete the work of He came to do (Colossians 1: 24). He needs our hearts to be His dwelling (Revelations 3: 20). I like to remind us using these words of inspiration by St. Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours;

no hands but yours; no feet but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world.

Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good.

Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.

 

The Lord need us just as we are. Let us offer ourselves to Him that He may use us to bring His light, love and peace to our world darkened by the multiplication of evils. May God grant us the grace to joyfully embrace the gift of His Son with love. Amen.