Palm Sunday begins the Christian High Holy Days, seven days of prayer, reflection and remembering. Holy Week is a spiritual pilgrimage by which we experience the events we remember. We’re not to be distracted from the events of this week, so we cover the statues in the church to help us focus on Jesus. I encourage you to gather with the community this year to experience these, as our Jewish brothers and sisters would describe them, Days of Awe.
The drama begins. Two Gospel passages are read today. At the very beginning of Mass, we remember Jesus’ spectacular entrance into the city of Jerusalem. We gather outside the church in the vestibule, carry the same palm branches the people carried that day, and walk in procession into the church, symbolically, Jerusalem.
But a shadow quickly comes over this short celebration. We listen to the first scripture reading, the prayer of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant. “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked by beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord is my help, therefore I shall not be disgraced.”
For a moment, light pours over Isaiah’s prayer as we read the second scripture from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!”
Then, we read the Passion. We eat with Jesus at his last supper, join him in the garden of olives, witness his arrest and trial, and walk with him to the cross. Palm Sunday sets us on the path we’ll walk with Jesus for the next six days.
Lord, by your cross and resurrection you have set us free. You are the savior of the world.