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Holy Week: Palm Sunday

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday, is a solemn celebration that marks the beginning of Holy Week, the most important week in the Catholic liturgical calendar. It commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, where he was welcomed by crowds of people waving palm branches and shouting "Hosanna!".

The Gospel accounts of Palm Sunday tell us that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah that the Messiah would come "humble and riding on a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9). The people of Jerusalem recognised this as a sign that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Messiah and welcomed him as a king.

The palm branches that the people waved were a symbol of victory and triumph, as well as a reminder of the Maccabean Revolt, when the Jewish people had used palm branches to celebrate their liberation from foreign oppression. The crowds that greeted Jesus with palm branches were hoping that he would be their political saviour, who would free them from Roman rule and restore the glory of Israel.

However, as we know from the Gospel accounts, Jesus had a very different mission in mind. He had come not to establish an earthly kingdom, but to bring salvation to all people through his death and resurrection. The events of Holy Week, culminating in Jesus' death on the cross and his resurrection on Easter Sunday, would fulfil this mission.

The celebration of Palm Sunday is both joyful and solemn. On the one hand, we rejoice with the crowds who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as a king. On the other hand, we know that this triumphal entry will lead to Jesus' suffering and death. The Gospel readings for Palm Sunday recount the Passion of Christ, the events leading up to his crucifixion, and invite us to reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus made for our salvation.

One of the most powerful moments of the Palm Sunday liturgy is the reading of the Passion narrative from one of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke). This reading is often done in parts, with different people reading the roles of Jesus, the narrator, and the other characters in the story. This dramatisation of the Passion brings the story to life and helps us to enter into the emotions and experiences of the people who witnessed Jesus' suffering.

Another important element of the Palm Sunday liturgy is the blessing and distribution of palms. This tradition dates back to the early Church, when pilgrims to Jerusalem would bring back palm branches as souvenirs of their visit. Today, the blessing of palms reminds us of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and invites us to join in the celebration of his kingship.

As we begin Holy Week, let us remember the events of Palm Sunday and reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus made for our salvation. Let us join with the crowds who welcomed him into Jerusalem as a king and with the disciples who followed him to the cross. And let us pray for the grace to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ's Passion, so that we may share in the joy of his Resurrection.

Palm Sunday Service 2023

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