Palm Sunday-April 5, 2020
On Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865, the Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, General of the Union Army, at the Appomattox Court House, Appomattox, Virginia. This surrender ended the bloodiest war ever fought on American soil. State against state and brother against brother; a conflict that literally tore the Nation apart. Five days later on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, America’s most revered president, Abraham Lincoln, was shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth in the Ford’s Theatre, in Washington DC. It was Lincoln who wrote the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery in the United States forever. On Palm Sunday, the war ended, and certainly, a triumph. On Good Friday, Abraham Lincoln was shot; the first president of the United States to be assassinated. Surely, a tragedy. (Curtesy to Fr. Richard W. Frank)
I welcome you to Holy Week celebration 2020 where we celebrate the triumph and tragedy of Christ’s life in the midst of a global tragedy with COVID 19. Today, we smell death everywhere, sense sadness all over, feel hopeless and helpless, experience frustration and disappointment. We understand the limits and the boundaries of human advancement and technological developments. In the midst of all that is happening we, as faithful Christians begin the celebration of Holy Week today in a way, which we have never experienced in our life time.
Today’s readings combine contrasting moments, one of glory and one of suffering. The royal welcome of Jesus in Jerusalem on a donkey symbolizing of a king’s arrival for peace; and the drama of the trial, leading to the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The first reading from the book of the Prophet Isaiah, foreshadows the life and mission of Jesus. The second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians relays to us who Jesus is and how His mission saves us from sin and death.
Will Jesus weep over me as he wept over Jerusalem? Will he condemn me as He condemned the barren fig tree? Will He cleanse me and my life with His whip as He cleansed the Jerusalem Temple?
The first part of the readings describes the royal reception that Jesus received from His admirers, who paraded him for a distance of two miles starting from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. In the Gospel, we participate in the reading of the Passion of Christ according to Matthew. Today’s liturgy is challenging us to examine our own lives in the light of some of these characters in the Passion story; like Peter who denied Jesus; Judas who betrayed Jesus; Herod who ridiculed Jesus; Pilate who acted against his conscience as he condemned Jesus to death on a cross; and the leaders of the people who preserved their position by getting rid of Jesus.
Today’s liturgy challenges us to examine our conscience and decide as to which group, we all belong. Do we belong to Peter, Judas, Herod, Pilate or the leaders? Will Jesus weep over me as he wept over Jerusalem? Will he condemn me as He condemned the barren fig tree? Will He cleanse me and my life with His whip as He cleansed the Jerusalem Temple?
May this Holy Week be a time where we reflect on the above-mentioned questions, and try to be the donkeys for Jesus carrying His teachings and values in our daily lives. May God bless us all!
Fr. Tomy Puliyan, MSFS
“Love and Live Jesus”