Mass for the Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Year A 2023 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
Readings: Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 21(22): 8-9, 17-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14 – 27:66
Today is called Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday. We re-enact the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem and preview the events that bring to a climax His saving mission.
The Word of God that we have heard testifies to the kind of Messiah Jesus was. He was not the triumphant ruler or the military strongman that many of his own Jewish contemporaries had longed for, especially on account of the waves of imperial conquest and subjugation. Instead, he identified with the Suffering Servant that Isaiah foretold. He epitomises the faithful remnants of Israel who persevered in goodness and righteousness despite the trials and tribulations.
Similarly, Paul describes Jesus in the second reading as humbling himself to the point of dying on the cross and embodying the self-emptying God. This path of kenosis or total giving of self for the sake of others characterises the life of the Saviour which in turn becomes the means of His vindication and glorification. He is raised on the highest for having lowered himself to the lowest.
The Gospel of Matthew is at pains to demonstrate Jesus as fulfilling the prophecies of old. Against popular expectations and conventional wisdom, Jesus set himself apart from other rulers and potentates. He was not a warrior, but a peacemaker. He was not a conqueror through domination and violence, but a humble servant through non-violence and justice. His innocence, patient suffering and self-sacrifice modelled a different way of living together.
One of the fascinating details is Matthew’s description of the contrasting attitudes between the male and female followers. During a nightmare of reversals and broken dreams, only the women remain faithful, and they alone keep watch during the silent interval after Jesus’ death and rushed burial. By contrast, the male disciples, including Peter, resorted to short-lived bravado, worldly power and superficial heroism. They were far from Jesus’ vulnerable trust and powerlessness.
This is the great paradox that Jesus taught and lived: life is lived fully not by surrendering it to self-survival instincts or the dominating power, but by self-giving love. He was utterly committed to the path of kenosis, of self-emptying, of accepting death and death on the cross. That is also the path of discipleship, the path of the Beatitudes, of love in the face of hatred and of resilience in tribulation. We are invited to walk in faith, step by step, deeper and deeper into our own commitment to share in the mystery of the cross in order to know the meaning of the resurrection.
Palm Sunday gives us a glimpse of the victory of love over hatred and life over death. It was God’s unflinching fidelity, His unconditional love in Jesus that brought about the victory of shalom. We are, therefore, encouraged to work and turn the tide in favour of the least of our brothers and sisters, confident that the Kingdom of God will prevail. Jesus, the Wisdom of God, manifests the truth that divine justice and renewing power transforms the world. The victory of shalom is won by the awesome power of compassionate love in and through solidarity with those who suffer.
We stand united with one another, with men and women of goodwill in working for the coming of the Kingdom. We stand united with Pope Francis, who has given us a strong leadership on the care of our suffering brothers and sisters. He inspires us to speak and act in favour of God’s poor for whom we will be judged at the end time. Pope Francis challenges us to replace indifference with compassion, ignorance with respect and suspicion with love.
The Suffering Servant shows us the way of disarming hatred with love, evil with goodness, violence with benevolence, and indifference with compassion. Let us follow His example in forging common bonds of humanity in the face of fear. Let us be a community of hospitality, compassion and neighbourliness that serves as a reminder to what our world could be. May we, the followers of the way, faithfully and courageously walk with Christ and bring His kingdom to life.
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