Palm Sunday – Year A

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Liam T. O’Doherty, O.S.A. 
Church of Our Mother of Good Counsel
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Mt 21:1-11
Is 50:4-7
Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
Phil 2:6-11
Mt 26:14—27:66

Today is the only day of the year when we have two Gospel readings. There is a dramatic contrast between the two of them. In the first Gospel reading that we heard proclaimed at the beginning of Mass, the crowd of people in Jerusalem welcomes Jesus in with shouts of “Hosanna!” They treat him almost as a king! Only five days later, the people of Jerusalem are shouting to Pilate, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Few of the 12 disciples, who had followed him for nearly three years, were anywhere to be seen.

All of us love Jesus. But being honest with ourselves, we know that there have been times in our lives when we, too, have turned from Jesus when times have gotten difficult. Just like most of the disciples did.

Jesus, after he rose from the dead, returned to ALL of the disciples. He did not reject them, although they were not there at his time of suffering. I’m sure that if Judas had not taken his own life that Jesus would have embraced and forgiven him too.

For most of us, Holy Week of 2020 will be radically different from any we have ever experienced. Most of us will not participate in these sacred rites physically. Many will participate remotely through our computer screens, smartphones, or televisions.

Fear and anxiety caused the disciples to flee and hide. Let that not be so for us! Unlike them, we have the advantage of knowing that Jesus has indeed triumphed over death! I imagine that no matter where we are or how we participate in these liturgies, there will be an intensity to them that we have not felt before. This year when we commemorate the Passion of Our Lord, we are surrounded by the Passion of Humankind as we together walk through this dark valley.

But as Psalm 23 reminds us, as we walk through this dark valley, He is walking beside us. We do not need to fear whatever evil will come, because He is with us to comfort and strengthen us as we go through whatever is in store. We know that His goodness and mercy will pursue us.

It is ironic that this holy season calls for us to come together as a community of faith, but this year we must enter into these mysteries separated from one another to keep all of us safe and healthy. Despite this separation, this year, especially we must live and act together and for each other as members of Christ’s Body.

The good news is that Jesus is Immanuel – “God with us!” This year as we meditate on His suffering and death, we are surrounded by suffering and death in our nation and our world. But Jesus does not abandon us! Jesus, in His mercy and compassion for all of us, profoundly desires to minister to each of us:

• to calm us in our anxiety,

• to give us courage despite our fears,

• to comfort us in our grief and sorrow,

• to be an anchor for us in our confusion,

Open your hearts to receive these graces! And He will give you and me the power to reach out to give comfort and strength to others [always as a safe distance, of course] – to family members, neighbors, even strangers – amid the present crisis.

Despite everything, Jesus is still Lord!