Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord is the first day of the holiest week in the entire year for Catholics. The ephemeral joy expressed by the chorus of “Hosanna” is tempered with the sobering suffering of the cross, which becomes the source of hope.
A typical cloudy, rainy springtime day in South Bend set the tone for the Palm Sunday Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral, celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. Due to the weather the outside procession was cancelled, so the faithful and clergy gathered in the narthex of the cathedral for the blessing of palms and proclamation of the first Gospel reading. Then everyone processed into the main sanctuary and nave of the church.
The readings from the prophet Isaiah and Psalm 22 both foretold of the coming Passion of Christ, with unwarranted but patient suffering and obedience to the Father’s will. The second reading, from the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, spoke of the hallmarks of Jesus’ humility, which God greatly exalted. The reading is thought to be the first hymn sung about Christ in the early Church.
The second Gospel reading, from Luke, was of Christ’s Passion. Bishop Rhoades, Deacon Fred Everett, Deacon Daniel Niezer and the faithful reading the various voices and parts from Scripture.
During the homily, Bishop Rhoades spoke about the importance of the kingship of Christ, highlighting the way it is described in holy Scripture and during the Palm Sunday liturgy. He also spoke about the tradition he learned as a child of keeping a palm branch behind a crucifix on the wall, as a reminder of that triumph of His kingship.
“The reason Jesus entered the holy city of Jerusalem was to endure the passion, to suffer and die for us, and, as we will celebrate next Sunday, to rise from the dead. … He would enter Jerusalem on this colt in order to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah, which said: ‘Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! Behold: your king is coming to you, a just savior is he, humble, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ Jesus entered Jerusalem as their king.
“In the reading of the Passion,” he later continued, “the kingship of Jesus is revealed, unlike any kingship this world has ever known. Jesus is the new king, unlike any other king who ever reigned. His throne was the cross and His coronation was the crucifixion.”
Connecting theology with the liturgy, Bishop Rhoades explained: “This is the King we worship at every Mass as we repeat the jubilant song of the disciples: ‘Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’ And He comes. He who entered Jerusalem enters every Catholic church when the priest repeats the words He said at the Last Supper. He who humbled Himself to death on a cross comes to us under the lowly forms of bread and wine. His sacrifice of love becomes present on the altar.”
He invited the faithful to prepare their hearts for the coming special week; for the coming of Christ, the King, in order to prepare their lives for the eternal reality awaiting them. “Let us enter into the great mystery of Our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection, the summit of our faith. … May we go forth from this Mass to serve our King, to spread His Kingdom, and let us be resolved to serve our King by walking the path He walked, the way of the cross. This is our mission and the way to enter triumphant into the new Jerusalem, the Father’s house where our King awaits us.”
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