Passion Sunday | Year C
Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. Now when he was near Bethphage and Bethany, close by the Mount of Olives as it is called, he sent two of the disciples, telling them, ‘Go off to the village opposite, and as you enter it you will find a tethered colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” you are to say this, “The Master needs it.”’ The messengers went off and found everything just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owner said, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ and they answered, ‘The Master needs it.’
So they took the colt to Jesus, and throwing their garments over its back they helped Jesus on to it. As he moved off, people spread their cloaks on the road, and now, as he was approaching the downward slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole group of disciples joyfully began to praise God at the top of their voices for all the miracles they had seen. They cried out:
‘Blessings on the King who comes,In the name of the Lord!Peace in heavenAnd glory in the highest heavens!’Some Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Master, check your disciples,’ but he answered, ‘I tell you, if these keep silence the stones will cry out.’
For three years the disciples and Jesus had been close to one another, travelling together through the towns and the countryside. During that time the disciples shared many emotional and deeply moving experiences as Jesus healed, taught and worked miracles for those who were oppressed or suffering.
Just one of those events would have an impact for a lifetime and the disciples had three year’s worth of them to ponder and digest. All the events they shared with Jesus would have been profoundly formative, changing them as they reflected on their meaning and grew closer to him. Little wonder that when they reached Jerusalem the disciples and the crowd erupted in spontaneous joy as they acclaimed Jesus who had so changed their lives.
The focus of Passion Sunday is often on what was to follow the entry into Jerusalem, the betrayal of Jesus and the Passion. Jesus knew what was to come but the disciples did not. With his instructions about the colt he gave the disciples the freedom to express their feelings and to unite in joy as they acclaimed the one whom God had sent.
It can be difficult to find the opportunity to truly express spiritual joy. Our world tends to look askance at crowds of rejoicing Christians. It is not the norm in the liturgy – except perhaps at Masses for young people – to be exuberantly and expressively joyful. Pentecostal churches don’t have the same inhibitions in expressing joy in their worship, and it makes them very attractive to some people.
Because we know that the Passion followed Palm Sunday there is a temptation to be restrained in our celebration of Palm Sunday. But we have even greater reason to be joyful than the crowd and the disciples who accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem. We know what the Passion accomplished for us and we know about the Resurrection.
Be joyful on Passion Sunday, individually and collectively, because it marks the beginning of Holy Week and the celebration of the Paschal Mystery. We are the great beneficiaries of the salvific events which Holy week commemorates, which is every reason to be both joyful and lost in wonder for the whole week.