On Palm Sunday, we offer our works and lives to the Lord
Palm Sunday reminds us of the transition from the Great Fast to the preparations for the Paschal celebration on Easter Sunday. The somber Lenten hymns will give way to the joyous songs to come. In our tradition, Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem follows the pattern of the victory procession following upon the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
In our time, the best example is the parade and celebration in a city when the local sports team wins a national championship. Last year, Cleveland celebrated for basketball; Pittsburgh celebrated for hockey; and Chicago celebrated for baseball. After months of struggle in the regular season and the endless playoff games, the victory celebration gives praise to the players and coaches. But it also gives credit to the loyal fans who, in some cities, wait a lifetime for a championship title for their team. The longer the wait for victory, the greater the joy!
The tradition of victory celebrations and the parade of champions goes back to ancient times. When a Roman army won a battle, it would return to Rome in a great procession. It would march the defeated soldiers and leaders, as well as the spoils of war, ahead of the triumphant soldiers, and at the end of the parade was the general. After years of waiting, the people lined the streets of the parade, singing and waving their hands and branches in praise for the safe return of their loved family members. The longer they waited for their return the greater their joy.
As Jesus entered Jerusalem, on the day following his miraculous restoring of his friend Lazarus to life, the people gave him a king’s welcome. They greeted him with branches of palm trees and shouted: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, (even) the king of Israel!” (John 12:13). This came to pass so that the prophetic words of sacred Scripture would be fulfilled: “Fear no more, O daughter Zion; see, your king comes, seated upon an ass’s colt” (John 12:15).
Appropriately, the movement of the season of fasting to the season of feasting is reflected through the story of Jesus and the disciples’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. We participate in the joy of the people lining the streets in Jerusalem when we line the procession on Palm Sunday holding our palms and pussy willows that are raised in honor of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.
On Lazarus Saturday, before Palm and Pussy Willow Sunday, we participate in the sadness of Mary and Martha at the loss of their brother. And we cheer because Jesus returned to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead. If we believe that we will be raised from death to life, we will be raised up to eternal life.
In our Lenten journey, we take on extra spiritual burdens, along with the burdens and crosses we carry each day. We offer these burdens as a way to atone for our sins. As we lift our branches and palms, we offer our works and lives to the Lord.
Waiting for another championship team is just like waiting for Easter Sunday. The longer and more dedicated the fasting, prayer and service for others during the time.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend William C. Skurla, D.D.
Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh
Apostolic Administrator of Parma