OFFICE FOR LITURGY

of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (Year A)

On Palm Sunday the long reading of the Passion dominates the celebration, and in a sense its meaning is obvious. Do not allow this, however, to detract from the other readings, which give the vital context necessary for understanding the Passion as more than just a long story. It is our story – the tale of how God achieved OUR salvation by the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-7
 
This is one section of a great block of readings that comes in the third section of the book of Isaiah, and is commonly called the “Song of the Suffering Servant”. It has always been interpreted by the Church as referring to the inner attitude of the Lord Jesus in his Passion, and so is a vital reading today: it lets us into Jesus’ mind, and tells us the story of the person behind the events we hear in the Passions. It is the voice of the Lord in his silent suffering. And what is the word he speaks? “Obedience.” The servant trusts completely in the Lord, who provides even the words he speaks. Whatever comes, he will trust in God, because if one is faithful to God, then one will know no shame. Allow this reading into your heart, so that it can find its way into others’ hearts as you read it. Make it much more than just “a reading before the Passion” – these two readings are the very meaning of the Passion. Also remember it’s a poem, and that must make a difference in the way you read it.
 
Second Reading: Philippians 2:6-11
 
Before the sacrifice of the cross was the sacrifice of the Incarnation. In other words, even before he came to Calvary, Jesus had already sacrificed so much for his people. This is the theme of this great hymn of the “self-emptying” of the Son of God. He leaves behind all his glory and equality with God in order to become a slave – even going further to accepting a terrible death. But even as we proclaim his emptying, his lonely death, we proclaim that God raised him higher than any other.  This reading starts almost mournfully, but by the end is a triumphant hymn of victory through sacrifice. Begin reading slowly and quietly, pausing after each short line (as printed in the Lectionary), but increased the pace and grow a little louder from “But God raised him high…” onwards. Aim to end triumphantly with “…the glory of the God the Father.”

From the Catechism

Christ’s entry into Jerusalem
CCC 557-560

The Passion of Christ
CCC 602-618

Christ’s kingship gained through death and Resurrection
CCC 2816

The Paschal Mystery and the liturgy
CCC 654, 1067-1068, 1085, 1362

CCC 557 - 560
"When the days drew near for him to be taken up [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem." By this decision he indicated that he was going up to Jerusalem prepared to die there. Three times he had announced his Passion and Resurrection; now, heading toward Jerusalem, Jesus says: "It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem."
Jesus recalls the martyrdom of the prophets who had been put to death in Jerusalem. Nevertheless he persists in calling Jerusalem to gather around him: "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" When Jerusalem comes into view he weeps over her and expresses once again his heart's desire: "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes."
How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of "his father David". Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means "Save!" or "Give salvation!"), the "King of glory" enters his City "riding on an ass". Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth. And so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God's poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds. Their acclamation, "Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord", is taken up by the Church in the "Sanctus" of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord's Passover.
Jesus' entry into Jerusalem manifested the coming of the kingdom that the King-Messiah was going to accomplish by the Passover of his Death and Resurrection. It is with the celebration of that entry on Palm Sunday that the Church's liturgy solemnly opens Holy Week. 

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