On Palm Sunday (like Good Friday) we read the story of the passion and death of Christ. Passion, or Palm, Sunday is the only Mass we open with a Gospel reading (Matthew 21:1 – 11, Mark 11:1 – 10, John 12:12 – 16). This highlights Christ entry into Jerusalem and marks the beginning of Holy Week. Jesus sends the disciples to get an ass and colt for him to ride into Jerusalem. The entry of Christ into the city has two important points to make. On the one hand we hear the joyful acclaim of the people which sets up to contrast their rejection of Christ a week later, “Crucify, crucify Him!” (Matthew 27:16 – 26, Luke 23:21). More importantly, the way Christ enters Jerusalem is a claim of royal and even divine authority, which, for the moment, the people recognize. In ancient Israel when the king entered the city he would ride on an ass and the people would spread cloaks and branches in front of him (Zechariah 9:9, see 2 Kings 9).
The ultimate purpose of the mission of Christ was to offer the sacrifice of the cross by which we are offered forgiveness for sins and reconciliation with God. In His resurrection He opens up eternal life for us. We will hear more about that during the Triduum, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil. Palm Sunday is more about who He is rather than what He will do. He is king of kings and lord of lords (Deuteronomy 10:17, 1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 19:16, Psalm 136:3, etc.). If we think about who a king is, at the risk of a slight oversimplification, a king is the leader of a nation (or a kingdom). In any political order we expect our leaders to guide and protect us, even at the cost of self sacrifice. This is exactly who Christ is. In His teaching and preaching He gives us direction. However, His ultimate action, the sacrifice of the cross, is only effective because He is king of the universe.
During Holy Week, as we meditate on who Christ is and what He has done, we need to remember that it’s not over. Christ is still here in the sacraments of the Church. Christ becomes present in the consecration of the Eucharist at Mass. Christ forgives our sins in confession. We also need to remember that by our baptism we are conformed to Christ. We take on the responsibility to join in His mission. We are baptized into Christ as priest, prophet and king (CCC 1268 – 1270) and are called to spread His gospel even when we, like Christ have to make sacrifices to do so.