Palm Sunday

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The following homily was delivered by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades during Mass on Palm Sunday, Apr. 3, 2023 at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend:

I think this is the only Mass of the year when we have two Gospel readings. The first, at the beginning of Mass, was Saint Matthew’s account of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The second, which we just heard, was Saint Matthew’s account of the Passion of Jesus. We call today “Palm Sunday.” The official title of today is “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord,” since today the Church not only recalls the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, but also Our Lord’s Passion. Today begins Holy Week, the weeklong commemoration of our Lord’s Paschal Mystery, culminating, of course, with the Sacred Paschal Triduum.

Daniel Tucker

Jesus went up to Jerusalem with His disciples, like so many other pilgrims, to celebrate the Passover. Notice how intentional Jesus was, even giving two of the disciples precise instructions about finding an ass and a colt, untying them, and bringing them to Him. Why is this noteworthy? Because Jesus had a purpose.
Saint Matthew tells us that Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy from the book of the prophet Zechariah that one day the Messiah-King would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. God told Zechariah: “Say to daughter Zion: Behold your King comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” That’s why Jesus sent the two disciples to find an ass and a colt. Jesus knew who He was and what He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.

Jesus had been announcing a kingdom since He began His public ministry and many people believed He was or might be the Messiah, the Son of David they were waiting for. Jesus now reveals that He is by entering Jerusalem the way He did. He is openly revealing that He is the Messiah, the One they were hoping for, the new King. Later, during the trial before Pontius Pilate, Pilate directly asked Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus did not deny it. He simply replied: “You say so.” Jesus did not deny the truth of His kingship. But entering Jerusalem the way He did, our Lord showed that His kingship is different from popular messianic expectations of a nationalistic revolutionary. Jesus did not enter like a warrior to conquer the city with weapons of violence. He did not enter riding on a great and towering horse, but on a small young donkey. He entered meekly like the prophet Zechariah foretold.

Jesus entered Jerusalem with great purpose, to accomplish our salvation through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Jesus the Messiah-King entered Jerusalem to establish a new kingdom, the kingdom of God. He would do battle — yes — but His weapons would be truth, humility, love, and mercy. He would be victorious in the battle. He would conquer Satan and his kingdom. He would conquer sin and death. He would definitively establish God’s Kingdom through His cross. He would reign as King from the wood of the cross. This is what we celebrate during Holy Week.