Before the procession Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16
At Mass Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47
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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai:
The Holy Week and You
Homily (after the blessing of the palms, before the procession Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16)
Jesus says to two of his disciples go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat; unite it and bring it. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this, ‘The Lord has need of it”’. A colt is a young male donkey under the age of four, God had a plan for this colt and He lined up every single thing necessary to make sure that it fulfilled God’s purpose. Every one of us no matter the situation has a purpose for existence. Most times our purpose may be disadvantaged by environmental influences, age, leaders, friends and other factors; but don’t give up. Again, people are tied down by guilt, anxiety, envy, lust, worry, low self esteem and addictions. As disciples of Christ we are sent today to take a step further to untie them so that they can fulfill their God-given purpose. Beloved, teach a brother and help a sister Christ has great need for their souls.
This first day of the Holy Week has historically been signified in churches with the waving of palm branches and singing of “Hosanna!” It is called Palm Sunday because today palms are blessed and carried during the procession. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the Holy Week or Passion Week. The Palm is a symbol of victory. For the Romans and the Jews it was carried in joyful and triumphant procession. Again, victorious soldiers bore palm branches when parading. Palm was given as a victory emblem at public games. It was use to decorates graves as a sign of the triumphant death of a martyr. Palm stands for paradise. We carry palms as a sign of peace, peace with God and our brothers and sisters. Palm also celebrates the triumph of Christ over sin and death. Therefore, the ultimate victory of any warrior is the victory over sin and death.
Holy Week: This is also known as Passion Week. It refers to the last seven days of Jesus’ earthly ministry during which the key events of the paschal mystery are re-enacted. The Holy Week is described in Matthew chapters 21-27; Mark chapters 11-15; Luke chapters 19-23; and John chapters 12-19. Holy Week begins with commemoration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, climaxing with the Last Supper and Passion of Jesus on Good Friday, ending with his sabbath rest in the grave on Holy Saturday. The resurrection of Jesus on eighth day, is celebrated as Easter, and marks the beginning of a new week, Easter week and the season of Eastertide. Holy Week is “The week of the bridge.” The Cross is the bridge – Christ is the bridge builder. He desires to reconcile man with his neighbour and reconcile man back to God. That makes it holy. Any week we build bridges among people friends and relative is a holy week. During this week we shall carry out the following sacred celebrations:
Day 1: Holy Sunday, Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday
Day 2: Holy Monday, Jesus Clears the Temple
Day 3: Holy Tuesday, Jesus Goes to the Mount of Olives
Day 4: Holy Wednesday, resting in Bethany in anticipation of the Passover.
Day 5: Maundy Thursday; the Passover and the Last Supper
Day 6: Good Friday; Jesus’ Trial, Crucifixion, Death, and Burial
Day 7: Holy Saturday; Jesus in the Tomb.
As we commence the Holy week today, we are called to relive the emotions without disregarding the COVID 19 policies. The policies may change the gestures and other accidentals but does not alter the essence and the spirit of worship. Therefore, let us make genuine effort to follow Jesus closely so that sharing in his passion we will also rise with him at Easter.
At Mass Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47
Brief Homily on the Readings: The readings today all point to the person of Jesus Christ. In the first reading, Isaiah speaks of Christ as one who came to preach the word of God but who was beaten and insulted. He did not revenge for God is on the throne and so the insults had no result. Similarly, the Psalm of today speaks of the sufferings of the servant of God – Jesus. Who then is above suffering? We must learn to accept our sufferings and sow them as seeds for eternity. The second reading speaks of Christ divinity yet he humbled himself and so he has been exalted by God and his name ranks above everything in creation. Humility is a skill for physical and spiritual greatness.
In the Markan account of the passion narrative, it was uniquely understood that Jesus foretold his hard times and finally accepted it as one pre-ordained by his Heavenly Father. St Paul says in the second reading, that Jesus obediently embraced the will of God even to the point of death. This account also speaks of the great contradictions that exist in humanity: The people who shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David” were the same people who shouted, “Crucify Him!” The same people who offered their clothes even for him to match on, were the ones who stripped him naked. Beloved, we must be very careful with praises. Nevertheless, when we are presented with different phases of life let us accept as Jesus willing accepted the cross.
Again, this narrative leaves us with basic character for reflection: Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, Pilate who acted against his conscience and condemned the innocent, the soldiers who flogged, ridiculed Jesus, Veronica who wipes off the face of Jesus, Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus to carry the cross. Beloved, looking at these characters: where do we find ourselves? What are we doing today to avoid betrayal, perversion of justice, pride, envy and hatred? May this Holy week truly be holy for us and may it yield it expected fruits in our lives through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr. Paul Oredipe:
The meaning of Remembrance – The Humble King
Today we remember the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to accomplish his paschal mystery. We do not just commemorate this event at the beginning of this Holy Week; rather we try to experience and relive it again, in fact to represent it.
Our procession today should therefore be a reminder to us that we too walk along, indeed, in a procession on the face of the earth, on a journey to our Father’s house. As we hold our palms in our hands let us remember that Christ himself comes to join us in this pilgrimage of life and faith. We do not go alone. We join Christ to enter joyfully into our heavenly Jerusalem, our happy home. The enthusiastic throng of people gathered in the city for the religious festival were in joyous mood as they spread their cloaks on the road, waved their palm branches in the air and openly proclaimed Jesus as their earthly king.
Our celebration today will only be meaningful if we do this with a devoted spirit and in a grateful acknowledgement of Christ as our only Lord and Saviour. Our songs and shouts of ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ with the people of Jerusalem should be a resounding acclamation of our lives of faithful service. It is only this can give value and worth to our celebrations today; in fact to all other activities of this week. Although we carry palms in our hands, what the Lord wants us to lay before Him is our lives of faithful and courageous witnesses to his gospel truths and values.
May Christ, the humble and glorious King, accompany us and guide our steps in His ways of peace, truth and justice. And may we arrive safe and sound in our Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, our true and happy home through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
After the Passion Narrative:
Today we celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem – Palm or Passion Sunday as we call it. This triumphal entry at the beginning of this Holy Week emphasises that the three elements: suffering, death and resurrection, belong together.
Like King David and all kings in his culture, Jesus enters the capital riding on the traditional animal. He enters Jerusalem, “meek and riding on an ass”- donkey – (Zec 9:9).
All the four evangelists relate this tradition as an introduction to Jesus’ passion and cruel death. Why? To teach us that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, though on a higher level than the people thought.
Jesus is sent by God to establish His reign (kingdom) on earth. His impending suffering and death will not thwart this divine plan but must be seen as the means to fulfil it, as will be clearly understood after the resurrection. “Did not the Messiah have to undergo all this so as to enter into his glory?” (Lk. 24:26).
Participating in today’s celebration and the rest of this Holy Week, we should keep in mind that suffering, pain, and death are also mysteriously part of our passage to a glorious life with our Lord.
What is the deeper meaning behind the way Jesus entered Jerusalem and the way the people greeted him? The key to the answer lies in the animal used by Jesus. The donkey was an animal of peace, as opposed to the horse, which was an animal of war – carrying soldiers into battle. A king or a general would never be seen on a donkey. He would want to show how powerful he was by riding on the best horse available.
The action of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, an animal of peace, reveals that the Messiah is not going to be a warrior-king, a military leader, who will be served by Israel’s enemies; but an humble king, a suffering servant, who has come to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus has not come to sit on a throne and be served by conquered peoples. He has come to kneel on the floor and wash the feet of his subjects. Jesus has not come to rally people behind Him and do battle against other people. He has come to rally them behind Him and do battle against poverty, hunger, hatred, and all forms of injustice. Jesus has not come to condemn people. He has come to forgive them. Jesus has not come to destroy people’s dreams. He has come to fulfil them in the most wonderful way imaginable. Jesus has not come to force people to follow Him. He has come to invite them.
Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week and is a day of glory and impending tragedy. We call this coming week holy because it recalls and relives holy events. We could also call it ‘loyalty week’ because it is a time to sacrifice time and energy and pleasure to join in the public worship of the Church, services that flash before us the sacred events which will inspire loyalty to Christ for every future day of our lives.
Holy Week highlights the peak moments of Christ’s love for us, gives us an opportunity to look at our lives and accept responsibility for our sins. It gives us the opportunity to examine our own commitment to truth and justice, and at our loyalty to Christ and his Gospel. But in doing this we must not lose sight of the central character in this sordid story, namely, Christ himself.
The passion story spells out the last events of the life of Jesus and makes clear the price He paid for our sins. His death on the cross reminds us that there is a God towards whom we journey and whose friendship we seek. Every Christian becomes aware that in his/her own life he/she has to meet the same fate as Jesus. He/she must join in Christ’s suffering and death in order to share his glory. The road to eternal life will not by-pass the hill of Calvary. Our victory, like Christ’s, comes only through the cross.
There is no point in comforting ourselves with the thought that a group of Jews crucified Christ. The people involved in Christ’s death are very like us. The rejection and the crucifixion continue daily. Each of us had a hand in his death because the face of Christ is marred and scared by the violence and injury; slander and hardship which we inflict on our neighbours. If we are honest, we can see shades of ourselves in all those who put Jesus to death. Jesus is crucified every time a human being is degraded, treated unjustly and deprived of real freedom.
Peter and Judas, Pilate and the soldiers should cause us to reflect on the treachery and evil that sleeps within us all. No-one can follow Jesus through the liturgy of Holy Week without the truth dawning anew in our hearts. The truth is that God loves us all with a love that cost him death on the cross.
May Christ the Humble King and Universal Saviour bless our procession of today and admit us into His kingdom at the end of our lives. Amen.
Fr. Evaristus Okeke:
” Christ became obedient for us unto death ” (Phil.2:8)
The Kingly nature of Jesus Christ
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week wherein we celebrate the heart of the mystery of our faith. The Jews have tried on several occasions to arrest Jesus but could not. Now that the hour has come, Jesus willingly goes to Jerusalem where his passion and death will take place. Truly, “…I lay down my life so as to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own freewill…” (Jn.10:17-18). However, he enters Jerusalem triumphantly as a king. It is the duty of a king to protect the lives of his subject. Jesus is truly a king, for in dying, he saved us. This uncommon demonstration of kingly power clarifies the kingly nature of Jesus Christ that has often times been misunderstood.
At His birth, Herod became threatened that a king has been born and he ordered the death of male infants of two years and below (Matt.2:16). The mother of James and John requested that the sons sit at Jesus’ left and right in His kingdom. Later on, Pilate asked Jesus if he was really a king. Amid these misconceptions, the gospel we just read before procession (Mark 11:1-10) is filled with symbolic actions that describes the nature of Jesus’ kingship.
First, Jesus sent two disciples ahead of him to untie a donkey and a colt with the instruction to answer thus: “The Lord has need of them”. Here, He demonstrated that He is the king of creation in general. But he does not use this power for self-aggrandizement, rather he deliberately chose a lowly animal in order to show us how we must return to the Father through humility. Pope Francis sees this gesture in the light of fasting. He says that “fasting also means changing our attitude towards other people and towards all creatures: from the temptation to ‘devour’ everything to satisfy our greed, to the ability to suffer for love”.
Second, he rode on a donkey not on a horse. Donkeys are calmer animals compared to horses. Kings will normally ride on horses for their strength and imposing appearance that could also scare enemies. Jesus’ choice of a donkey symbolizes that though he is a king, He has not come to fight a battle with an intimidating presence, rather, he has come to overcome evil by serving, by suffering and by dying.
The people laid down their clothes and chanted Hosanna. Here, the people were improvising for saddles (leather-like materials) that is placed over a horse for kings to sit and place their legs.
Indeed, Jesus is the king of Peace. As He approaches His passion, He is not filled with rage at the wickedness of men, rather, He is focused on the salvation He was bringing about for mankind. This is humility. Without humility we cannot perceive the action of God in moments of difficulties. Since crosses are part of the Christian experience, we cannot be authentic Christians without humility. Little wonder Jesus says: “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Matt.16:24).
When we conscientiously and humbly follow the sequence of the events in the passion narrative, we will not only see the faults of different characters in bringing about the suffering and death of Jesus Christ; more importantly, we will acknowledge how one or two of these characters represent us. This will push us to sincere repentance and strengthen our resolve to live better Christian lives.
Above all, we must learn from Jesus’ meekness and humility. He overcame evil not by vengeance and anger but by forgiveness and humility. Psalm 130:3 says that if the Lord should mark our guilt, none of us would survive. Meaning that, we are surviving because the Lord forgives us. Dear friends in Christ, in the same vein, our lives, our families, our communities and our world survive when we forgive.
We earnestly pray at this Mass for the grace to deeply understand the kingly nature of Jesus that we may more perfectly imitate Him as heirs of His Kingdom, through Christ our Lord, Amen. God Bless You!
Fr. Stephen Udechukwu:
Our suffering is not the end but the beginning of a new thing
With the celebration of today, we begin that most important week in the Church and in the entire universe; the holiest of all the weeks of the year. It is most important and holy because it is the week God chose to bring about our salvation through his suffering, death and resurrection. Today being Palm Sunday is bittersweet because even though we rejoice at the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem and shout hosanna, we know that that Friday which is good amongst all Fridays is coming. But the question is, should we really be sad about that Friday? The Friday is sad but good.
Our gospel reading/passion narrative is a very dramatic one filled with meaning. Jesus had set out on his journey to Jerusalem which he foretold in Mathew 16:21. If we remember very well, it was during this Jesus’ journey today that he healed the blind man Bartimaeus in Mark 10:47 because Mathew20:29 and Mark 10:46 tells us that as he was leaving Jericho there were already great multitude following him. Bartimaeus having discovered that Jesus was among the pilgrims started to cry out “Jesus son of David, have mercy on me” even when people tried to calm him down he shouted the more until Jesus came to his aid and Mark 10:48-52 tells us that he followed Jesus to Jerusalem after his sight was restored. Now this healing made other pilgrims to begin to wonder whether it was possible that this Jesus whom they were walking with is actually the Messiah whom they have been waiting for.
In fact as if the healing was not enough, when Jesus got to the mount of Olives in Mark 11 the place where the Messiah is expected to enter from, he sends two of his disciples ahead of him to get someone’s donkey which no one has used and if anyone asks them question they are to reply that “the master is in need of it” and so Jesus rode on a new but borrowed donkey. For us this may be ordinary and one of those things, after all someone can borrow another’s car and use. But for the Jews and Jesus’ fellow pilgrims, it is not an ordinary action. For the Jews, the use of a donkey which no one has used is left only to kings. For instance Zechariah 9:9 which was quoted by Mathew and John says “Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey and on a colt…”. Now not only that Jesus rode on a new donkey but it was also a fact that when this donkey was brought, Jesus did something that was unexpected to the people. When the donkey was brought to Jesus by the disciples, they laid their garments on it and Mathew 21:7 says “and Jesus sat on it” although Luke 19:35 said that “they sat Jesus on it”. This action as well is attributed to kings as seen in 1Kings 1:33-34 when king David commanded Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Banaiah saying “take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon; and let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel”. Again, the spreading out of cloth/garment as the disciples did was also associated to the kingship of the people of Israel as we have in 2Kings 9:13 when Jehu became king “at once all the commanders, the companions of Jehu, took their cloaks and put them under Jehu on the bare steps. Then with blast of trumpets, they proclaimed, Jehu is king”. And so when the other pilgrims with Jesus saw what the disciples where doing, in their enthusiasm and wonder they had no choice but to spread their garments on the streets while some plucked tree branches and began to chant psalm 118:26 “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…”
The question now is, how come just few days this people shouted hosanna, crucify him followed; few days they sang behind Jesus; few days they hailed and praised him, they chose Barabbas a notorious armed rubber over Jesus. The Jews never expected that Jesus whom they knew so much is God. In fact they expected a kind of king like David who would always lead them to wars. Hence when Jesus an ordinary Son of a Carpenter came and told them he was and is God they had no choice but to persecute and kill him. But something so interesting is how Jesus accepted his death in the hands of his own people. He knew very well he was going to Jerusalem to die but he still made the journey; he embraced the cross; he did not run away because he knew that his suffering is the beginning of a new life for us. How then do we embrace the little crosses that come to us daily? Most times what we do is to complain. Remember, Jesus’ death was not the end and his suffering was not the end but the beginning of a new life for us. Your suffering is not the end but the beginning of a new thing God wants to bring about in your life but you have to accept it first. Hence he tells us in Mathew 16:24 to take up our cross and follow him if we must be his disciples. God has the power to save us without suffering, but he sometimes does not, probably because he wants to show us that there is a great thing behind our sufferings. May our sufferings not lead us to condemnation but to a greater glory. Amen.