"The Lord's Day" Gospel Reflection for April, 5, 2020, Palm Sunday (Matthew 21: 1-11) Featured
Nicholas Pierlot gives a reflection on Matthew 21:1-11, Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem.
For this Saturday evening's Lord's Day Celebration, we recommend using the Gospel reading of the Entry into Jerusalem: on Palm Sunday, this Gospel is proclaimed before the procession into the church, and the Passion Narrative is read after the Second Reading.
To assist in this time, St. Therese Institute would like to share some resources to keep your Sabbath day holy.
- Magnificat has made available a free, online subscription to their monthly publication of daily prayer, mass readings, and reflections by saints and pertinent theologians. A free PDF of the Sunday mass readings (using the NAB translation), with reflections, a form of liturgy of the hours, etc. is available at this link: ENGLISH https://us.magnificat.net/free FRENCH https://canada.magnificat.net/
As quoted from their website, Magnificat is:
"... a spiritual guide to help you develop your prayer life, grow in your spiritual life, find a way to a more profound love for Christ, and participate in the holy Mass with greater fervor."
Magnificat is a monthly publication designed for daily use, to encourage both liturgical and personal prayer. It can be used to follow daily Mass and can also be read at home or wherever you find yourself for personal or family prayer."
- Another good resource is Universalis.com. This is a free web resource that contains the Liturgy of the Hours and the daily mass readings with helpful instructions and various service. As well, one can use Canada's lectionary by selecting it in the settings.
It is our hope that these resources may support your life of prayer and devotion.
Matthew 21:1-11 – Sunday Gospel Reflection – Palm Sunday
Nicholas Pierlot, Assistant Director of Formation, St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission
April 5, 2020
The Gospel reading and Passion Narrative for Palm Sunday accentuate the strange nature of Jesus’ divine kingship, contradicting our often worldly visions of power, liberation, and mission.
The special event at hand is the famous Entry into Jerusalem, where Jesus is accompanied in kingly fashion into the city by lauding crowds. Christ’s sending of two disciples to requisition a donkey and its colt from a nearby village subtly introduces the royal theme. Here, Jesus is claiming a royal prerogative of ancient times, whereby a king may appropriate means of travel from any of his citizens. As well, the crowd’s deposit of garments before Jesus is a direct allusion to the Old Testament figure king Jehu. After being anointed king of Israel by the prophet Elisha, Jehu returns to his kin, who lay garments before him in homage, blowing trumpets and shouting “Jehu is king” (2 Kings 9:12-13). The cutting of branches is reminiscent of Simon Maccabee’s retaking of Jerusalem’s citadel. Entering in procession, the Jews waved palm branches and shouted hymns of praise, “because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel” (1 Mac. 13:51). The uttering of the liturgical Hosanna is also significant. Meaning ‘praise’ or ‘save us’, the Hosanna picked up messianic overtones in the time of Roman occupation. In this way, Jesus’ kingly entrance has definite military and vanquishing overtones.
A donkey for a steed, however, is not exactly a military animal. Rather, it is quite humble. Surely a warhorse would be more fitting for a triumphant entry. The Gospel is not unaware of this odd pairing. Matthew quotes Zechariah: “Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.” (cf. Zechariah 9:9-10 & Mt. 21:5). While puzzling, Jesus is not the only king in Jewish history to ride such a lowly animal. Before ascending the throne, Solomon rode a donkey before his nation (cf. 1 Kings 33-35). The donkey has often been a vehicle for God’s surprising purposes in salvation history. Known for his wisdom, the lowly donkey represents the true source of wisdom: humility before God. Solomon’s humble wisdom, not war, is the foundation of his prosperous kingdom. For Christ, the humble animal highlights the non-violent character of Christ’s messiahship, contradicting the violent, political messianism of his time.
The Passion Narrative unfolds this non-violent, humble, and sacrificial kingship of Christ. When Jesus is arrested at Gethsemane, “one of those who were with Jesus”, thought to be Peter, “stretched out his hand and drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear. (Mt. 26:51). Jesus does not commend, but reproves Peter and reminds him of his Father’s plan and providence. Rather than use the ways of the world to establish his kingdom, Jesus begins with an ultimate act of self-surrender and love: the crucifixion on the Cross.
In this narrative, Peter is a figure we can relate with. Imagining his excitement and zeal at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is not too difficult. Likely, he was right-up-close to Jesus as he processed, singing at the top of his lungs, hoping for the same hope as the rest of the crowd: liberation from oppression. However, Christ’s liberation is not solely overthrowing an external force. Christ is interested in the demise of sin, the source of every evil and enemy. To quote Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.“ Jesus is most essentially interested in establishing his lordship over our hearts, proceeding from there to wider society. Do we in our dealings admit the necessity of the cross and the path of conversion? Or are we like zealous Peter, looking for an easier foe to self-distract and combat?
Nicholas Pierlot is the Assistant Director of Formation at St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission in Bruno, SK, where Sacred Scripture is one of his favourite topics to instruct on. Nick holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Prince Edward Island and M.A. in Catholic Applied Theology from the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England. He lives in Bruno with his wife Denise, their daughter Rosé. They are expecting a new addition to the family this summer.
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