On Palm Sunday Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on a donkey (the animal of peace instead of a horse which is the animal of war) to celebrate the Passover. Jesus came symbolizing the Prince of Peace not as a war waging king. In those times it was customary to cover in some way the path of someone thought worthy of the highest honour. Palm fronds were gathered by the people there to welcome Jesus and some of them even laid down their garments in his path. In the Jewish tradition, the palm branch is a symbol of triumph and victory as shown in other parts of the bible (e.g., Leviticus 23:40 On that day take some of the best fruits from your trees, take palm branches and limbs from leafy trees, and begin a religious festival to honour the Lord your God.; Revelation 7:9 … and they stood in front of the throne and of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.) Because of this, the scene of people waving palms welcoming the celebrant is important and symbolic on Palm Sunday. These palms will later be collected and burnt to be used as ash on Ash Wednesday.
Fr. Andrew Stephen who celebrated Palm Sunday mass at CDM reminded the congregation of the prophecy spoken by Prophet Zechariah about 500 years before the coming of Jesus (Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice, rejoice, people of Zion! Shout for joy, you people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you! He comes triumphant and victorious, but humble and riding one donkey – a colt, the foal of a donkey.) But the people of Jerusalem expected a king that would have saved them from the suppression of the Romans. They had thought of a king like that of King David, their long awaited Messiah but instead Jesus was a different king. A king that would deliver them from sin and unite them in the church. We are now reminded of this prophecy and the true meaning of the coming of Jesus as we celebrate this Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday also marks the beginning of Holy Week. This week traces the events of Jesus’ life leading up to his death. In the simplest terms, Palm Sunday gives us the occasion to reflect on the final week of Jesus’ life and prepare ourselves for the agony of His Passion and the joy of His resurrection.
In his homily, Fr. Andrew also reminded those present that Jesus came to save us from sin and death. As Jesus entered into his passion, death and resurrection we are also asked to enter into the vision, mission and mystery of Jesus. The vision of telling the story of Jesus, the three missions of Jesus, namely the priestly, prophetic and kingly missions; and the mystery, that He is, indeed, the son of God. In this way we can be instruments of salvation.