By Fr. Angelo Anthony, C.PP.S.
Today’s celebration, “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord,” holds together two extremes, Jesus who is acclaimed King and Jesus who is the Paschal Lamb of God who gave his life for the salvation of the world. Many Catholic homes honor this mystery by placing blessed palm branches behind a crucifix as a constant reminder to keep Christ as King of the household and the call to follow Jesus by laying down our life out of love for one another.
As king of heaven and earth, Jesus has come in humility, simplicity and vulnerability. Recall the words of St. Paul: “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave . . . he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death” (Phil 2:6-8). The gift of Holy Week teaches us that there is strength in humility, simplicity and vulnerability.
In church art, a very ancient symbol for Jesus is that of a pelican in a nest with her young. Why the pelican? In ancient times there was a tradition that spoke about a terrible famine that covered the land. A mother pelican could not find any food for her starving chicks. Out of love for them, she pierced her breast and gave all she had, her life blood, as food for her young. What a powerful image of sacrificial love and humility for us, we who are children of God. Jesus has given us his body and blood as food and nourishment for our journey on earth, sustaining us in our every need.
This year, St. Luke will be our guide as we reflect upon the mystery of the Lord’s passion on Palm Sunday. Luke’s gospel has been called the gospel of the lost and found with his unique parables of the prodigal son, the lost coin and the lost sheep. This theme continues in the passion narrative from Luke’s gospel as Jesus heals the severed ear of the servant who came to arrest him, as he reaches out to the women of Jerusalem weeping for him, in the advice he gives Peter to strengthen his brothers after his own denial, in the forgiveness offered to his executioners and finally to the repentant thief who died with Jesus.
St. Luke reminds us that no matter how far we have turned from the Lord, God’s love and mercy are available to us! Through his journey to Calvary, Jesus teaches us the importance of sacrificial love and the power of the cross. By the out-pouring of his Precious Blood Jesus has shown us what it means to live in humility, simplicity and vulnerability. In these final days of Lent may we turn away from sin and open our hearts to the mercy and compassion of God so that we will be prepared to receive the gift of God’s life and love in this Holy Week.
Fr. Angelo Anthony, C.PP.S., is the pastor of the Dayton Region Seven parishes, which include Emmanuel, Holy Trinity and St. Joseph.