C Cycle – Palm Sunday 19
Lk. 19: 28-40
Palm Sunday in every parish through the Catholic world is always a joyful celebration. Children fashion the palms they received into a cross not even thinking of either the meaning of the palm or of the cross.
Spring has sprung in many parts of the world and people seem eager to dress their recently purchased spring clothes. The choir has been practicing for weeks and the music in many parishes will begin with “the king of Glory comes, the nation’s rejoicing, who is this king of glory, how shall we call him. A constant awe-inspiring memory of mine is of a Palm Sunday in 1974 at a conference in Rutherford, New jersey. The entrance procession had more than 30 priest walking in two by two holding over their heads palms which they were waving side to side while people sang “the king of glory comes.” The crowd of two thousand all waved their palms and it was reminiscent of that day in Jerusalem when Jesus entered amid shouts of joy.
We know from looking back at history the crowd that day greeting Jesus did not understand the role of the messiah. They wanted freedom from their oppressors just as their ancestors wanted to be relieved of the yoke of the Egyptian rule. There is a common thread between those two events in that if their rulers had just eased up on their oppression of the people the Israelite’s would have been satisfied.
We should not be surprised to discover God desires to give us much more than we expect or feel we deserve. The people greeting Jesus that day are a reflection of us and where we find ourselves today as we are willing to acknowledge him as Messiah and by Thursday we will see discover how quickly we like them can run away from Jesus, deny him and stand by while he is ridiculed and mocked by so many today.
The entire story of Jesus is the story of God’s love to restore what we have lost with the sin of Adam. The moment they doubted God’s goodness and lost paradise God set in motion a plan to restore our glory, to remove the barrier our sin creates between us and God. Sin is viewed by us a failure to meet the standard established by God’s law as well as the those established by the church. In most of our minds sin is a mark against our name in that book we call judgment which also contains those times we met the standard or went beyond the requirements of the law.
What we fail to realize is the very words we often recite during the penitential rite is our acknowledging sin involves more than what we did. It also involves what we fail to do and in our thoughts. Today we can get caught up in this triumphal celebration but we should go beyond the emotion of the day and beyond the externals to discover the love God desires to lavish upon us.
Today begins the final chapter which began when Jesus set aside His glory, gave up that place at the right hand of the Father to “…become sin for us so we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor.5:21). Today Jesus is near the end of His mission which began in the squalor of a manger for animals, lived in isolation until that day came when He entered the waters of the Jordan and began proclaiming the Kingdom of God had arrived. He came to bring the good news, give sight to the blind, heal the broken hearted and to proclaim the mercy of God. What was His reward? To bear the guilt of our sins so that we could live enjoying intimacy because our sins have been forgiven, the punishment of them taken by Jesus as the result of an act of love.
Why would God plan it this way? After all he could have just forgiven us as he did with the woman caught in adultery. It is this way so we would grasp the depth of love it took to provide us with an avenue to become the very people God designed us to be as He fashioned us in His image and likeness. The sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus, not only removed the partition of sin between us and God, it also removes the power sin has on us; it removes the pollution sin which diminishes and pollutes the very good we do. We tend to only talk about how his crucifixion removed the penalty we deserve for our sins, but it did more than that.
Let us not get caught up in the celebration today because God desires more than just to offer us salvation. Let us use this day to look at how easily we join in with the mentality of the mob. We want Jesus to be celebrated and in a way that makes us avoid looking at our sin and how we failed to embrace this gift of God. We prefer celebrating Jesus in a way that avoids our having to examine how we use the law to avoid the journey of a disciple and the call to die to self and acknowledge we are unworthy of this gift of grace given to us by God. We need to examine our response to the death and resurrection of Jesus and acknowledge it freed us from the law of sin and death and transferred us to the law of the Spirit.
The issue is we are more comfortable with the law which defines sin because it is sets the ground rules for our life. Yet our life as sons and daughters was restored by Jesus and that demands from us a different kind of response. One that is lived by acknowledging this celebration today is more than it seems. It is something we should shout from the roof tops; proclaim gladly to all we meet for we have a God who came to us in the form of a slave so we could be clothed in righteousness.
Jesus is coming to you today not to stand with the crowd but to embrace him for he was on this way to fulfill the plan of God. We should today look ahead to Calvary and allow ourselves to be embraced by our God who forgave our sins and removed our guilt.