Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
April 10, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Lk 19:28-40 / Is 50:4-7 / Ps 22 / Phil 2:6-11 / Lk 22:14 – 23:56
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
Today is Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. On this Palm Sunday, we gather together to join Jesus in His final journey toward His divine purpose. After five weeks in the desert of Lent, we are all joyful and relieved that Easter is coming, and Jesus is near.
Just a few moments ago, we gathered in the commons with our palms being blessed, anticipating Him of whom we’ve heard so much. There was a little excitement and a sense of community as we looked at others across the circle. You could feel a sense of purpose. Then we joined in that triumphant procession toward this holy place, our “temple,” just like the people in the gospel arriving in Jerusalem. We, like them, were marrying our hopes and aspirations to those of this simple teacher from Galilee.
In very short order, however, our joy and hopes were crushed, as we listened in horror to the gospel dialog of the Lord’s Passion. Thankfully, we know the outcome. We know the victory. We have the blessing to be on this side of history, looking back for our assurances. The people there, the disciples there that day, had an uncertain future. Their lives were so difficult in a brutal and occupied territory.
I’ve heard this Palm Sunday set of readings for years, and I read it quite a few times as I was preparing for preaching this weekend. There is one character in the story that I could not get out of my mind this past week. He’s a minor detail, really, easily brushed off and forgotten. I’m talking about the donkey.
Why did Jesus need a ride and why did He choose a donkey? Jesus had been walking all over Galilee, Judea, and Samaria, for three years. He walked everywhere and I would imagine that He was very fit and used to walking. He had set His mind on the journey to Jerusalem just a few weeks ago. He was making a beeline to Jerusalem, and yet He stopped just a mile or so from the destination, and decided to send two of His disciples to go get a donkey for this last little piece. Curious, isn’t it?
Every Jew in Jesus’ day and especially in His audience would have been very familiar with the prophesy of Zechariah about the king’s entry into Jerusalem. Zechariah 9: 9-10 says:
Exult greatly, O daughter Zion! 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.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem;
The warrior’s bow will be banished, and he will proclaim peace to all the nations.
His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Jesus, choosing this donkey, verifies this prophecy.
What does it say to us, that He is riding in on a donkey? It says to us that Jesus is a king, and that the King is coming to you. To you and to me by name. It says Jesus is a just Savior. He wants to save you, to remove you from sin and death, to justify you, moving you from darkness to light. It says Jesus is humble. He is not riding a great stallion or being carried in an ornate wagon. He is gentle, caring, and arriving on a common donkey. It says Jesus is peaceful. He is not conquering with horse and chariot, and bow. No violence. Peacefully, He comes to you. He doesn’t force your heart. He asks. It says Jesus’ reign, His dominion, is universal from sea to sea. That tells us He’s coming for everyone, every single one of us. Are we open? Are we ready?
Another curious thing about the story is that in order to complete this divine mission, in getting the help of this common creature, we learn that the donkey was born for one purpose and one purpose only. The donkey had never been sat upon by anyone. The donkey’s purpose was to serve the Lord. But the donkey couldn’t come on his own. He was tethered and needed guidance. Luke makes so much of the fact that the donkey was tethered and needed to be untied.
I started thinking that maybe you and I are the donkey. Weren’t we all born for one purpose: to serve the Lord? Aren’t we also tied up, bound to so many other things? Take a moment and think about what ties you, what binds you, what holds you back and separates you from truly loving and truly serving Him? Jesus, in His wisdom and compassion, sent disciples to help us, to untie us and lead us to Him. The Church, her Sacraments, her clergy, and all her holy and prayerful people have all been around and are still here to help set our hearts free and guide us to the Master, whom we were born to serve.
What binds you? What is your tether? Is it pride, or fear, indifference, busy-ness, or shame? There is something in the world out there causing separation. Our tether has been expertly bound by sin. Satan works around the clock to keep those knots tight and secure. But this week, as we go through Holy Week, we learn how and by whom we are liberated.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.