The Voice of My Faith

The Palm Sunday of Our Passion

Today we enter into the most important week in the Church’s Liturgical calendar. Our liturgy is quite different than the rest of the Holy Week. Our texts are filled with contradiction: Palms waving in adoration followed by Jesus being bound, questioned and sentenced; a king and a convict; hosannas and humiliation.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today is called Palm Sunday, but it is also known as Passion Sunday. In the procession we honor a “triumphant King,” shouting hosanna and waving palm branches, just as the people of Jerusalem did when they welcomed Jesus all those years ago. But then suddenly in the Mass, the glory and hosannas come to an abrupt stop. In the Readings, the Prophet Isaiah tells of a servant whose “face I did not shield from buffets and spitting”. Paul proclaims that Christ “emptied himself, to take up the status of a slave” and a pain-filled Gospel closes as Jesus takes his last breath. Triumph and tragedy. But it doesn’t end there. Sure, the Readings speak of defeat, but they reveal how the passion and crucifixion end in exaltation. “Truly this was the Son of God!” Dying and rising to new life. 

Dying to oneself is something you often hear us talk about, especially during the Season of Lent. But what does this really mean and what does Jesus’ dying mean for our living? Paul said to the community in Philippi, “he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death.” In Galatia, he told the Christians living there that Christ “gave himself for me.” What Jesus did, what he experienced, what he suffered was all for me and for you. He died for us. And this dying is not an isolated event to be experienced one time only. Our entire life should be spent dying to self and journeying to Jerusalem. And just like Jesus, we must let go. This is what we try to do during Lent. We let go of the things that hold us back, the things that keep us from freedom. I don’t believe that this process should be limited just to Lent. Our lives must be an endless journey of letting go….letting go of yesterday; letting go of all of the things that tie us down and keep us from being the person God intends us to be. And to let go is to die a little. 

Jesus had to let go. Let go of the triumph he experienced as he entered Jerusalem. Let go of the glory that was rightfully his as the Son of God. Let go of Nazareth; let go of his mother, whose own hurt must have tormented him. He had to let go of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, all of whom Jesus loved. Let go of his beloved Twelve, who had still so much to learn. Let go, last and hardest of all, of the sheer miracle of being alive. He had to let go; otherwise he would never have set his face towards Jerusalem and his dying would never have become our living. 

And that is how it is for us my friends. To live as Christians is to share in the dying and rising of Christ. To journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, we have to let go of where we’ve been, in order to live more fully. This can be really difficult, maybe even painful, for the past may seem like the peak of human living. So many times we want to re-live where we have been and what we did. The past is a very real and big part of who we are. The danger though is not in remembering the past, the danger comes from living in the past and not letting go of what or how it used to be. Jesus isn’t yesterday, Jesus is now, today! In order to become more like him, we must be able to let go, like he did. 

But how do we let go of where we’ve been? How do we let go of yesterday? Whether you’re facing yet another birthday or your hair is turning gray – or even white like mine – maybe you aren’t as strong and fit as you used to be, maybe it’s a career change, a big move, divorce, retirement, your money… you have to learn to accept it and move on. Jesus, even “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God.” Jesus “emptied himself taking the form of a slave.” In accepting the things we can’t change and letting go of yesterday, we die a little. And in this dying, we rise up to something new. Letting go of yesterday will open you up to tomorrow and everlasting life.

Friends, as we enter the holiest week of all, let us turn our eye toward Jesus’ passionate death and glorious resurrection. Remember the promises we made during Lent and see where it brought you. It is in losing your life that you will find it; it is in dying that you come alive.  


The Palm Sunday of Our Passion