We began today’s liturgy by commemorating Our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Like the crowds who welcomed Jesus into the holy city, we carried palm branches. On the first Palm Sunday, the crowds spread their cloaks on the road and cried out: Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest. We sing these same words at every Mass, at the beginning of the Eucharist prayer. As this cry of hope was sung when Jesus came into Jerusalem, we sing this cry of hope when Jesus comes in the Eucharist to meet us in a new way. We greet Jesus with the cry of Hosanna since He comes again in the name of the Lord through the Eucharist. We greet the king who comes among us in the name of God, His Father.
In the liturgy today, the commemoration of Our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem occurs at the beginning of Mass. Then the focus shifts to the Passion. Notice that the Roman Missal calls this day: Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord. The focus shifts from the palms to the cross. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem becomes overshadowed by a greater triumph – the triumph of the cross. After all, this is the reason Jesus entered Jerusalem to begin with. He ascended to the holy city in order to ascend up Mount Calvary, to ascend the cross. The cross is the throne of the Son of David, of Christ the king.
Jesus’ ascent to Jerusalem is an ascent of love, an ascent to the cross. He entered Jerusalem out of love to die for us. 33 years earlier, the Son of God had descended at the Incarnation – He came down from heaven. He emptied Himself, Saint Paul wrote, in becoming man, and humbled Himself unto death, death on a cross. We will meditate this week on Our Lord’s suffering and death by crucifixion. On Holy Saturday, we will remember Jesus’ his descent into hell. These events naturally evoke sadness. But they also evoke joy – which is why we call this Friday “Good Friday.” On the cross, Jesus overcame sin and death with something more powerful: self-giving love. He reveals that love is more powerful than death. That is why on Good Friday we venerate the holy cross. It is the sign of the Redeemer who suffered and died for us. We carry the cross not as a symbol of defeat, but of triumph.