Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion by Sister Barbara Barry, SNDdeN

Mar 20, 2024 | Gospel Reflections

March 24, 2024

Mark 11:1-10

The Church refers to this sabbath as Palm Sunday. The liturgy begins with a solemn procession and a remembering of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Mark’s gospel says that “many people” spread their cloaks on the ground or laid palm branches before Jesus and John’s gospel says that “the children ran to meet him, carrying palm branches and crying hosanna.” The readings give the impression that this is a happy event, honoring this man who appears to be the fulfillment of God’s promise. In John’s gospel this attention to Jesus follows the raising of Lazarus, a hope to the people and a serious worry to the Pharisees. We don’t really know how Jesus reacts to all this but as we follow the gospel narratives and see how the church has chosen the readings for the daily liturgies of the week, we know that Jesus is serious and understands what is ahead of him. You hear the weariness and, ultimately, the surrender. There are no more words that he can say. There is no more that he can do but to give himself completely.

The first reading for Sunday and for the three days that follow are the Servant Songs from Isaiah. I can only imagine that these verses from Isaiah are the source of Jesus’ strength to endure what is to come. Anyone who has faced significant trials in ministry knows these verses.

In the second reading for today, we hear Paul’s words to the people of Philippi. Perhaps he is referring to the triumphant entrance into Jerusalem when he says, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.”

And then, even though we call it Palm Sunday, the gospel is the passion narrative from Mark. Today and Good Friday we are brought face to face with the reality of Jesus’ death. The story of the passion is the only time the church involves the congregation in the proclamation of the gospel. To be honest, I resist it with everything that is in me. I do not want to say the words that are given to us to say. Many parishes invite the congregation to sit for the reading of the passion now and so I sit with my eyes closed and listen, sometimes close to tears, at the words we are supposed to say. I don’t want to say the words now but I often wonder, what would I have done if I were there when it all happened. If I had been a faithful Jewish woman at the time of Jesus would I have believed him to be the long-awaited Messiah? Would I have accepted his message as a continuing revelation of God’s reign? Would I have become a follower? Would I have spoken out in support of him? Do I see the prophets of our day as continuing God’s revelation? As Jesus tried to show the people of his time that there were new ways to understand the Jewish traditions and practices, can we, too, look at our traditions and practices and see that there are new ways to do things, that are faithful to God’s vision and address the needs of our day?

This is, in truth, a holy week. As solemn as it is, it is still the prelude to the core of our Christian life, the resurrection and life in the Spirit. May it be a week of grace and blessing for you.

 

Mark 11:1-10

When Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately on entering it, you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone should say to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ reply, ‘The Master has need of it and will send it back here at once.’” So they went off and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. Some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They answered them just as Jesus had told them to, and they permitted them to do it. So they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it. And he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!”

The Gospel of the Lord

 

Meet Sister Barbara Barry, SNDdeN

Sister Barbara is a native Bostonian and entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1969 at Ipswich, Massachusetts. She has ministered primarily in secondary education administration and currently serves on the Leadership Team for the US East West Province.