Palm Sunday: Journeying with Jesus beyond the Palms and Spears

2012: http://www.tkayala.com/2012/03/palm-sunday-homily.html

As we have come to accompany Jesus in this week when we enter into his paschal mystery which is the suffering, death, resurrection of our Lord, we also reflect his humanity that took upon himself the human sufferings, rejection, betrayals and sin so that we be freed from them all. 
-We are sinners who have compounded the anguish of sin around us, Lord have mercy
-We are simple people who tend to act like kings expecting respect and reverence; our pride has prevented us from being Christians, Christ have mercy
-We have been fickle and wavering to stand by your values and principles, lord have mercy.


The suffering in our world seems overwhelming at times. It cries out from countries devastated by famine, afflicted by the pestilence of AIDS and torn apart by an unending cycle of violence and war in the name of religion, ideologies, color and beliefs. It confronts us in the immediacy of our own country: families crowding into slum and shelters, and the elderly living alone and lacking adequate medical care, as well as in the senseless shootings and bombings that erupt every now and then. Schools and churches are attacked, religious and priests are abused because of the Christian name. Suffering afflicts our own flesh in sickness and weighs down our spirits in depression and discouragement. Yes, our world is awash in pain and suffering. How do we choose to respond? 
a) Denial is one of the easiest and least fruitful reactions. We see, we hear, and we turn away as quickly as possible — tune into another channel, or bury the troublesome front page with the glowing promises of the ads or the sports page. We put off visiting the friend in the hospital; we forget the dire warnings of our doctor about the consequences of not making unwelcome lifestyle changes. Like children we hide from what we don't want to see and grow deaf to any summons that threatens our comfort level.   

B) Discouragement and defeatism are another unfruitful response. It is all beyond us so we do nothing. We withdraw from life, allowing sadness to paralyze us. With our face to the wall, we shut out the light and live in a world of gathering darkness. Hopelessness prevails. At the opposite end of the spectrum, we may grow angry, but instead of being energized by our pas­sion, we allow it to fester into bitterness. We complain endlessly about suffering's unfairness, raging against the injustice of it all. We blame everyone but ourselves, castigating "them," including God, for being so heart­less. There is no good news, no realistic hope of change. Suffering is truly a two-edged sword, cutting and dividing, revealing and changing. It can either deform us or transform us, never leaving us the same. Just as it can discourage and defeat us, so also it can make us stronger and more open of mind and heart. And what makes the difference? Our response to suffering?  
"Pain will occur; suffering is a choice." We often use the two terms interchangeably. But they are not the same. Pain seemed the immediate response to something hurtful. A wide range of experiences came to mind — every­thing from a sliced finger to major surgery, from the relatively brief encounter with the dentist's drill to the all day, most every day of something more chronic like arthritis. I could also easily recall the times when my heart hurt but the pain came not from clogged arteries but from  another's  words  or  actions...or my  own. 
Pain comes in many sizes and degrees. Each individ­ual experiences it differently depending on a host of variables. 
All pain is psychosomatic. It may begin in my body, but it eventually reaches into the very fabric of my being, or it can begin in the mind or the spirit yet end up as a stomach cramp or a bad headache. Doctors say that a patient's attitude makes a major difference in something as organic as the progression of a tumour or healing after surgery. And we all know how even a bad cold can darken one's disposition and how a bad day at work can result in an upset stomach.

Despite our instinctive reaction to it, pain is basical­ly good; it is a healthy response that tells us something is wrong. If we were unable to feel pain, we would have to be on constant alert to dangers we could not per­ceive. Hot water would scald us; sores would become infected wounds. Grief, our own or that of others, would leave us untouched. Numbed to the world around us and inside us, we would be only half-alive. 

Suffering is our response to pain; it is the attitude we choose when we experience it. We can, for example, simply ignore the pain we are feeling, or we can let it become the focus of our concentrated attention.

Pain gets our attention, warning in strong language that something is wrong. Put more positively, pain calls for change

Acknowledging our pain not only refrains from denial but also refuses exaggeration; it keeps pain in perspec­tive.




Mine is neither the only pain nor the worst pain. Despite its immediacy and insistence, it is not even the whole of my reality. I am left with the freedom to choose, if not whether I will suffer, at least how I will suffer.

It is this attitude of receptivity that pain tests. Redemptive suffering moves in quite a different direction. Having acknowledged pain with some appro­priate expression of our naturally felt resistance, we remain at peace because we know that a good Giver is always giving good gifts.

We wait in patience for time to reveal the potential in this strangely wrapped present. We trust, knowing that we are in for surprises as time reveals the potential hidden in what we have received
 
The iron stove glows red with fire, restrains the heat that I desire.

When I approach to warm my hands, respect is what the fire demands.
Too close, my skin begins to smart. Too far, the cold creeps round my heart.
The paradox is clear to me. The risk lies in proximity.
Permit me, Lord, to come so near that your warm love will melt my fear. 

Loving Father, let me walk in the footsteps of your Son during these holiest of days. May I never fear the demands of his love or the risks of his sacrifice.     Amen.
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Life is a journey. God's and ours together. Ever since Adam and Eve had chosen to make a journey of disobedience and hiding away from the maker, humankind has been making this journey away and back to Paradise. Either making their own paradises or refusing to enter God's houses. Abraham leaving Haran and travelling towards Canaan. Through prophets, judges and kings, we are constantly been reminded of that return journey beyond the captivities of Egypts and Babylons, deserts and green pastures, Bethlehems and Jordans, fishing nets and tax counters, wells and valleys, sheep folds and vineyards, temples and synagogues. The Lord, perhaps, will meet  us at the well or at the market place or at the last supper or on our way to Emmaus.
That journey of God extending his hand that Michelangelo once drew was accepted in Mary. Another journey begins in receptivity, obeying God's commandments, moving from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth to Jordan to Capernaum and finally to Calvary. That journey has to go through Jerusalem - the city of peace - the temple city where the sacrifice has to be offered as a sin offering, purification and redemption.
That is the journey that we are called to be part of: to redeem ourselves, our families and the world. Beyond the Hosannas and Jeers, beyond the help of Simons and Veronicas, it's our own journey we steadfastly undertake. May be we never reach Canaan. Let the journeying with purpose and commitment give us the fulfillment.

Tony Kayala, c.s.c.

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Introduction to today’s Celebration

The text in the Missal (p. 123: ‘Dear friends in Christ …’) cannot be bettered. However, care should be taken to read it as if it were one’s own notes so as to stress the notion that we are entering into the Great Week, accompanying Christ in the Paschal Mystery.
This is not just another Sunday: it is the beginning of a week with Christ that culminates next Sunday. It recalls all the pointers in the gospels (e.g. Mk 10:32-3) to the journey that the Lord must make to Jerusalem to perform his great work.
The liturgy of Holy Week is a participation in this work at Jerusalem: today the church building is a symbol of the city (hence we begin outside it, and then enter it),
then there are the final days (Monday to Wednesday),
then the final meal and the commissioning of the apostles (Thursday), the time in the garden and the passion
(Thursday night/ Friday until 3 pm), the exaltation on the Cross which is recalled by the church as a victory celebration (the Good Friday liturgy),
the tomb (Saturday), the resurrection (the Vigil) and its announcement (Sunday). This is the symbolic week, in the sense that we by participating in the liturgy are not just on-lookers engaged in a pageant, but are uniting ourselves with Christ now in his Great Work. Everything that is said or done in today’s liturgy must aim at conveying this sense of a week of participation.
So while the Missal still thinks (compiled in 1970) of the ’principal Mass’ and then other Masses, we must be aware that in our pastoral situation few places have this rigid dichotomy of celebration: whatever Mass people are attending is the principal Mass for them. So that whether it is the vigil Mass on Saturday evening, or any Mass on the Sunday, there should be the full entry celebration: the introduction and blessing of palms somewhere other than the main building where the Eucharist will
be celebrated; and then holy weekthe procession into the church/ Jerusalem/ this week. Unless we set the scene of a week with Christ todaythe great liturgies later in the week are held without their proper context. They stand as individual ‘bits’ (one ‘bit’ today – a pageant of one episode in the gospels, another ‘bit’ (‘the first Mass’) on Thursday, etc.) because the introduction to the whole has been missed. In such a fractured presentation the liturgy cannot convey the message of the Paschal Mystery shared in by the baptised, and becomes a bunch of historical commemorations more akin to anniversaries of ancient events (e.g. the way we recall events like ‘the first Dail,’ ‘the battle of the Somme,’ ‘the day Jack met Jill’) rather than a week that somehow presents us with the basis of Christian faith and a foretaste of the New Jerusalem (cf Gal 4).
In many parishes there is a feeling that this is just an ordinary Sunday plus a few extras, and that careful planning and arranging special things like extra readers, assembling outside the church, decorations, and so forth, does not have to start until Thursday. The hard fact is this: if you do not start the extra work that ‘the Easter Ceremonies’ involve today, then by Thursday it is too late, and all the worries about readers, thuribles, and what not, is more a desire to fulfill rubrics than as attempt to adequately create the ritual environment which allows us to grow in our understanding of the mystery of the Christ.




Michel DeVerteuil 
Prayer reflection
Lord, we thank you for those precious moments
when you allowed us to experience
that we played a significant part in your work of grace:
– we were there when a holy person was dying, and said the final prayers;
– a national crisis arose, we were in the right place
and did our duty to the country;
– members of our community shared their sorrows with us;
– we were at prayer and suddenly felt our solidarity
with the suffering of the world.
It was a fleeting moment but the memory remains.
It must have been like that for Simon of Cyrene
when he happened to be passing by,
coming in from the country, and they enlisted him
to carry the cross of Jesus.
Thank you, Lord.
death to life
Lord, you often make a place of death the source of new life:
– we were abandoned by our friends,
but learned how deep our inner resources were;
– a parent died and the family came together as never before.
You teach us that you always bring life,
and this is why your Son Jesus was not afraid
when they brought him to a place called Golgotha,
which means the place of the skull.
Lord, we thank you for the members of our church who are not afraid
to be associated with those whom society labels disreputable:
– those who work with AIDS patients;
– movements like St Vincent de Paul and the Legion of Mary;
– worker-priests.
Often they are criticized and mocked,
but we see in them Jesus crucified with two robbers,
one on his right and the other on his left.
It can be rightly said of them that their only interest is in saving others,
and that, like Jesus, they are not unduly concerned with saving themselves.
“It was essential that Jesus should become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s  religion.”    Hebrews 2:17
Lord, people sometimes think that those of us who are leaders in the church
must always be calm and composed.
We thank you for teaching us that when you yourself seem to be silent
we can cry in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?”
“To destroy human power nothing more is required than to be indifferent to its threats  and to prefer other goods to those which it promises.”   R.H. Tawney
Lord, how true it is that success and popularity are not really important in life.
The only important thing is that some unbelieving centurion,
seeing how we live and die, could say, “In truth, this was a son of God.”
Lord, when great people remain faithful unto death,
showing no anger or resentment to their enemies,
but on the contrary continuing to love and forgive,
it shows us how false are the barriers we set up
to separate people into bad and good;
the veils we have erected in your temple are torn in two from top to bottom.
women at CrossLord, we thank you for faithful followers of Jesus,
those who, like the women in the gospel,
look after him in Galilee where it is safe,
and then come up to Jerusalem with him, even though it is dangerous,
and are there watching with him as he hangs on the cross.

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 Thomas O’Loughlin
General Introduction 
The Passion in the Liturgy: The demands of celebration
passion of Jesus
Twice each year, on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, the reading of the gospel becomes visibly a liturgical event in its own right. On these occasions the dramatic reading with several voices may replace the solitary tone of the deacon/ priest. Yet in most parishes this is not only a missed opportunity to do something which can enhance the whole celebration, but actually becomes something counter productive. At the very least it can become a shambles of voices coming in off-cue, lines-lost, or confused mumbling (‘Whose line is itT ‘Whose that voice supposed to represent?’). At worst it can send hidden signals to the congregation about how we view the passion, the Jews, and the ministry of proclamation.

Homily notes
The Missal (p. 132) says that a brief homily may be given.’ There is definitely a case today for taking up this permission to omit the homily altogether; not because such an omission might shorten an already long liturgy, but since we have just come through one of the longest verbal elements in the whole of the liturgy (the passion), another verbal event (a homily) does not bring contrast or help the gospel reading to sink in. A better way to highlight what has been read would be a couple of moments of structured silence (e.g. ‘Let us now reflect in silence on the passion of our Saviour’) before standing for the Creed. On the subject of the length of today’s liturgy we should remember that length of time is one of the key non-verbal ritual cues that humans use to indicate special importance: a crucial symbolic event that is over in a moment, or takes just the same length of today’s liturgy we should remember that length of time as an ordinary event is an anti-climax – do not forgetChristmas dinner must take longer than an everyday meal. Because this is a special day opening a special week, it should and must take a noticeably longer time than an ordinary Sunday.
this much
If one does preach, then the brief comments should be directed to introducing the week as a whole rather than particular comments on the readings. This could take its starting point from the gospel outside – that Christ has arrived at, and entered Jerusalem, and that ‘his hour’ has arrived. As Christians we are sharers in this event.
If the situation calls for a meditation rather than a homily, then a suitable meditation is provided in the Christ-hymn (the second reading) as a way of interpreting the events narrated. However, rather than re-reading it directly from the lectionary it can be broken up into its verses and read with pauses. The version used in the Office is better for such use than either the RSV or JB. Better still, have it sung by a soloist and simply introduce it as the earliest christian meditation we possess on what we have just recalled about the death of Jesus.
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Sean Goan
Gospel/ Passion Commentary :
Mark 14:1-15:47
every dropThe account of the passion in Mark is very stark. Jesus is portrayed as alone, abandoned by his closest friends and perhaps even by God. He dies on the cross with a loud cry on his lips and darkness covers the whole earth. Yet at this precise moment the Roman centurion who was guarding him, having seen how he died, makes the great confession of faith: ‘Truly this man was God’s Son.’ Throughout his ministry Jesus had tried to teach his followers that the way of the kingdom was the way of self emptying love. They had to become servants, slaves to one another and forget about greatness as the world understands it. Repeatedly they failed to understand him and eventually they ran away. So we are left with this foreign outsider to tell us the meaning of Calvary. Through his faithfulness to the kingdom Jesus finally tears away the veil that separates God and suffering humanity. By his prayer of abandonment Jesus has shown us that, far from abandoning us, God has identified totally with our struggle.

Reflection
Suffering is part and parcel of being human and, while we must readily acknowledge this fact, it is also true that we usually do all in our power to avoid it. The readings for today are an invitation to reflect on how it is that passion of Jesus can change our outlook on suffering. Our Saviour may be seen in these texts as a model of patient endurance and of faithfulness. We are not asked to believe that suffering is good in itself but to see that good can come of it and to recognise in Jesus God’s solidarity with all those who endure suffering for doing what is right.
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From the Connections:

THE WORD:
The Blessing and Procession of Palms:  Mark 11: 1-10 or John 12: 12-16
Mark’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is the most subdued version of the event in Scripture.  The donkey plays a central role in the Mark's story -- Mark relates with surprising detail how the disciples found the donkey colt as Jesus told them.
It was the custom for pilgrims to enter Jerusalem on foot.  Only great kings and rulers would “ride” into the city -- and usually on great steeds and horses.  Jesus, the King of the new Jerusalem, chooses to ride into the city -- but not on a majestic stallion but on the back of a young beast of burden.  By being led through the city on the back of a lowly, servile donkey, Jesus comes as a King whose rule is not about being served but giving generous and selfless service to others; his kingdom is not built on might but on compassion.  The little donkey Jesus mounts mirrors how the prophet Zechariah foretold this scene five centuries before:  “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey . . . ”
In John’s shorter account, Jesus is enthusiastically welcomed as the Messiah-king by the crowds, many of whom had seen or heard about Jesus' raising of Lazarus.  John makes specific reference to Zechariah’s prophecy that the Messiah-king will enter the city seated on “a donkey's colt.”

The Liturgy of the Word
The Passion:  Mark 14: 1 – 15: 47
Jesus’ entry into the holy city and his “cleansing” of the temple with the demand that it be a “house of prayer for all people” will bring his clash with the ruling class to a head.  In his account of the Passion, Mark portrays the anguish of Jesus who has been totally abandoned by friends and disciples.  Mark’s Jesus is resigned to his fate.  He makes no response to Judas when he betrays him nor to Pilate during his interrogation (and Pilate makes no effort to save him, as the procurator does in the other three Gospels).  As he does throughout his Gospel, Mark pointedly portrays the utter of failure of the disciples to provide any assistance or support to Jesus or to even understand what is happening.  The “last” disciple who flees naked into the night when Jesus is arrested is a powerful symbol in Mark’s Gospel of the disciples who left family and friends behind to follow Jesus now leave everything behind to get away from him.

Reading 1:  Isaiah 50: 4-7
Reading 1 is taken from Deutero-Isaiah's "Servant songs," the prophet's foretelling of the "servant of God" who will come to redeem Israel.  In this third song, Isaiah portrays the servant as a devoted teacher of God's Word who is ridiculed and abused by those who are threatened by his teaching.

Reading 2:  Philippians 2: 6-11
In his letter to the Christian community at Philippi (in northeastern Greece), Paul quotes what many scholars believe is an early Christian hymn (Reading 2).  As Christ totally and unselfishly "emptied himself" to accept crucifixion for our sakes, so we must "empty" ourselves for others.
 
HOMILY POINTS:
There is a certain incongruity about today’s Palm Sunday liturgy.  We begin with a sense of celebration -- we carry palm branches and echo the Hosannas  (from the Hebrew “God save [us]”) shouted by the people of Jerusalem as Jesus enters the city.  But Matthew’s account of the Passion confronts us with the cruelty, injustice and selfishness that lead to the crucifixion of Jesus.  We welcome the Christ of victory, the Christ of Palm Sunday -- but we turn away from the Christ of suffering and of the poor, the Christ of Good Friday.  These branches of palm are symbols of that incongruity that often exists between the faith we profess on our lips and the faith we profess in our lives.
In his account of the Passion, Mark portrays a Jesus who has been totally abandoned by his disciples and friends.  There is no one to defend him, to support him, to speak for him.  He endures such a cruel and unjust death alone.  Yet, amid the darkness, a light glimmers:  The prophecy of a new temple “not made by human hands” is fulfilled in the shreds of the temple curtain; a pagan centurion confesses his new-found realization that this crucified Jesus is indeed the “Son of God”; and a member of the Sanhedren, Joseph of Arimathea, is embolden to break with his fellow councilors and request of Pilate the body of Jesus.  The Passion of Jesus should be a reason for hope and a moment of grace for all us as we seek the reign of God in our own lives -- however lonely and painful our search may be.
The Gospel calls us to take on what Paul calls the “attitude of Christ Jesus” (Reading 1) in his passion and death: to “empty” ourselves of our own interests, fears and needs for the sake of others; to realize how our actions affect them and how our moral and ethical decisions impact the common good; to reach out to heal the hurt and comfort the despairing around us despite our own betrayal; to carry on, with joy and in hope, despite rejection, humiliation and suffering. 
In our remembering the events of Holy Week -- from the upper room to Gethsemani, from Pilate’s bench to Golgotha, from the cross to the empty tomb -- Jesus will turn our world and its value system upside down: true authority is found in dedicated service and generosity to others; greatness is centered in humility; the just and loving will be exalted by God in God's time. 
Today’s liturgy confronts us with the reality of the cross of Christ:  By the cross, we are reconciled to God; by the cross, our lives are transformed in the perfect love of Christ; by the cross, Jesus’ spirit of humility and compassion become a force of hope and re-creation for our desperate world.
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Fr. Munachi:

What different story would we be telling today if the unnamed owners of the donkey had refused to give it up? Maybe we would have no story of the triumphal entry, at least not in the way Jesus wanted it. No matter how unknown a person is, he or she can still play a crucial role in the unfolding of God's plan. The Lord needs each one of us as he needed the unnamed owners of the donkey in the reading. We are not told who these owners of the donkey are but the fact that they understood that "the Lord" refers to Jesus and voluntarily gave up the donkey shows that they could be his secret disciples or admirers. Otherwise one would have expected them to answer, "But who is this Lord who needs my donkey?"
A donkey was a very big thing in those day. The donkey was the equivalent of a car, a truck and a tractor all in one. It was a car because people used it to move around and do their shopping, a truck because it was used to carry load, and a tractor because it was used in cultivating the land. Add to this the fact that the donkey had never been ridden, that means it was brand new and had a very high market value. You can see that giving up the donkey just because the Lord needed it was a very big sacrifice. It was a generous and heroic act of faith.
Now, compare the faith response of the owners of the donkey to that of many of the faithful in our churches today.
A visiting preacher was really getting the congregation moving. Near the end of his sermon he said, "This church has really got to walk," to which someone in the back yelled, "Let her walk preacher." The preacher then said, "If this church is going to go it's got to get up and run," to which someone again yelled with gusto, "Let her run preacher." Feeling the surge of the church, the preacher then said with even louder gusto, "If this church is going to go it's got to really fly," and once again with ever greater gusto, someone yelled, "Let her fly preacher, let her fly." The preacher then seized the moment and stated with even greater gusto, "If this church is really going to fly it's going to need money." There was silence. Then someone in the back seat cried, "Let her walk preacher, let her walk."
Max Lucado reminds us that each of us has got a donkey that the Lord needs. Here is his reflection on using our donkey for the service of the Lord:
Sometimes I get the impression that God wants me to give him something and sometimes I don't give it because I don't know for sure, and then I feel bad because I've missed my chance. Other times I know he wants something but I don't give it because I'm too selfish. And other times, too few times, I hear him and I obey him and feel honored that a gift of mine would be used to carry Jesus to another place. And still other times I wonder if my little deeds today will make a difference in the long haul.
Maybe you have those questions, too. All of us have a donkey. You and I each have something in our lives, which, if given back to God, could, like the donkey, move Jesus and his story further down the road. Maybe you can sing or hug or program a computer or speak Swahili or write a check.
Whichever, that's your donkey.
Whichever, your donkey belongs to him. It really does belong to him. Your gifts are his and the donkey was his. The original wording of the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples is proof: "If anyone asks you why you are taking the donkeys, you are to say, 'Its Lord is in need.'" [Max Lucado, And the Angels were Silent, p. 54]
So, what is the name of your donkey? The Lord has need of it.

ILLUSTRATIONS:

1. Fr. Tony Kadavil:

“Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.”
Constantine the Great was the first Christian Roman emperor. His father Constantius I, who succeeded Diocletian as emperor in AD 305, was a pagan with a soft heart for Christians. When he ascended the throne, he discovered that many Christians held important jobs in the government and in the court. So he issued an executive order to all those Christians: “Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.” The great majority of Christians gave up their jobs rather than disowning Christ. Only a few cowards gave up their religion rather than lose their jobs. The emperor was pleased with the majority who showed the courage of their convictions and gave their jobs back to them saying: "If you will not be true to your God you will not be true to me either.” Today we join the Palm Sunday crowd in spirit to declare our loyalty to Christ and fidelity to His teachings by actively participating in the Palm Sunday liturgy. As we carry the palm leaves to our homes, we are declaring our choice to accept Jesus as the King and ruler of our lives and our families. Let us express our gratitude to Jesus for redeeming us by His suffering and death through our active participation in the Holy Week liturgy and our reconciliation with God and His Church, repenting of our sins and receiving God's pardon and forgiveness from Jesus through his Church.   

Zechariah foresaw it. Jesus fulfilled it.
The Greek author Plutarch describes how Kings are supposed to enter a city. He tells about one Roman general, Aemilius Paulus, who won a decisive victory over the Macedonians. When Aemilius returned to Rome, his triumphant procession lasted three days. The first day was dedicated to displaying all the artwork that Aemilius and his army had plundered. The second day was devoted to all the weapons of the Macedonians they had captured. The third day began with the rest of the plunder borne by 250 oxen, whose horns were covered in gold. This included more than 17,000 pounds of gold coins. Then came the captured and humiliated king of Macedonia and his extended family. Finally, Aemilius himself entered Rome, riding in a magnificent chariot. Aemilius wore a purple robe, interwoven with gold. He carried his laurels in his right hand. He was accompanied by a large choir singing hymns, praising the military accomplishments of the great Aemilius. (http://www.sigurdgrindheim.com/sermons/king.html) That, my friends, is how a King enters a city. But the King of Kings? He entered riding on a lowly donkey. Zechariah envisioned the King of Kings, the Messiah, coming not on a great stallion, but riding on a humble donkey. Zechariah foresaw it. Jesus fulfilled it. (http://www.tosapres.com/sermons.php?sermon=96)

Welcome to the triumph and the tragedy of Holy Week:
On Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, General of the Union Army, at the McLean house in Appomattox, Virginia. This surrender ended the bloodiest war ever fought on American soil. State against state, brother against brother, it was a conflict that literally tore the nation apart. Five days later, on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, America’s most revered president, Abraham Lincoln, was shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theatre. It was Lincoln who wrote the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery in the U.S. forever. It was Lincoln who wrote and gave The Gettysburg Address. Lincoln hated war, but he was drawn into this one because he believed it was the only way to save the nation. On Palm Sunday the war ended. Triumph. On Good Friday, Abraham Lincoln became the first U.S. president to be assassinated. Tragedy. Welcome to Holy Week. Welcome to the triumph and the tragedy of the six days preceding Easter. (Surrender location corrected by Fr. Richard W. Frank, richardwfrank@yahoo.com)

2. Fr. Jude Botelho:

In the first part of this service we remember Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem acclaimed by all the people. We could dwell on the thoughts of those who were present there. Firstly there are the disciples and the crowds, which were growing in their admiration of Jesus the master. They must have been particularly happy to see their master thus publicly acknowledged by the multitude. Then there are the Jewish leaders who understood what was happening as the crowds proclaimed: "Hosanna to the Son of David." They wanted Jesus to silence the crowd but he didn't. Then there is Jesus himself and his thoughts were very different from those of his disciples and the crowd. He did gratefully accept the praises of the people since they were sincere, but these praises did not make him proud. He still remained humble and that is the reason he comes on a donkey fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah.

Triumph and Tragedy
In 1978 President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin shared the Nobel Peace Prize. The award was given to them for their joint efforts to reduce Mideast hostilities by framing and signing the U.S. mediated Camp David peace accord. The agreement was an unprecedented move on Sadat's part because he was the first major Arab leader to accept Israel's existence as a sovereign state. Only five years earlier, in 1973, he was hailed as a hero for successfully sending Egyptian forces across the Suez Canal to recapture Israeli-occupied territories. But in 1978 Sadat was called a traitor by Arab radicals. President Sadat was assassinated by some Arab extremists in 1981. Ironically, he was killed while viewing a parade to celebrate the anniversary of the 1973 battle that had made him an Arab hero. The life and death of Anwar Sadat suggest some striking similarities to the life and death of Jesus, similarities that stand out on Palm Sunday. For both Sadat and Jesus had loyal followers who acclaimed them, but also enemies who eventually killed them. Both men entered their final scene to sounds of triumph, only to depart from it on a note of tragedy.
Albert Cylwicki in 'His Word Resounds'

In the first reading the prophet Isaiah, who lived seven hundred years before Christ, wrote about the sufferings of the suffering servant in such detail that one would have thought that he was an eye witness of the passion and death of Jesus Christ himself. The spirit of God prompted him to say and write as he did. In particular, in today's reading, Isaiah will highlight one key aspect of the suffering servant of Yahweh that he would be obedient and uncomplaining in his acceptance of whatever he had to endure. In all that he suffered he would trust in his Father and surrender to His will.

As we listen to the narrative of the passion we need to remind ourselves that the gospels were not written at a stretch but gradually. The account of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus were among the very first sections of the Gospels to be put into writing as nothing was dearer to the followers than to recall and relive the very last moments of Jesus and all that he had said and done before he died. On listening to the narrative of the passion, those Christians and millions of others were empowered and fortified to remain faithful to Jesus in times of persecution. We too, as we listen to the narrative of the passion will find the courage and strength to carry our own crosses and follow after him. As we enter into his passion we need to make an act of faith. Jesus died but he still lives on and continues to be in our midst. During Holy Week Jesus comes in a special way not only to listen to us but also to speak to us and to work in us and through us. Times have changed and the settings have changed. There are no apostles and no Jews but we have taken their place. Jesus is undergoing his passion today through the people who suffer, those who are unjustly condemned to death; those who are betrayed by their very own; those who suffer for their stand against aggression, injustices, human rights; those who are manipulated by power hungry forces; those who are the victims of war; victims of terrorism; the narrative of the passion is unfolding in our very times. May our meditation on the passion and death of Jesus Christ lead us and all those who suffer, into the fullness of the Resurrection.

The people, in them I see the face of God
In one of his plays Padraig Pearse tells the story of Mac Dara, the Singer, who returns home and tells his old school teacher Maoilsheachlainn about his loss of faith. "Once as I knelt at the cross of Kilgobbin, it became clear to me with awful clearness, that there was no God. Why pray after that? I burst into a fit of laughter at the folly of men in thinking there is a God. I felt inclined to run through the village and cry aloud, "People, it is all a mistake. There is no God." Then I said, 'Why take away their illusion? If they find there is no God, their hearts will be as lonely as mine.' So I walked the roads with my secret." To which Maoilsheachlainn replied, "Mac Dara, I am sorry for this. You must pray, you must pray. You will find God again. He has only hidden his face from you." "No," said Mac Dara, "He has revealed his face to me, the people, Maoilsheachlainn, the dumb, suffering people. In them I saw or seemed to see again the face of God." In the people and his concern that his unbelief might disturb their simple faith, Mac Dara rediscovered the face of God.
James A Feeban from 'Story Power'

Do you think he loved me?
Manning and Brennen were part of a platoon in Vietnam making their way through the jungle when, suddenly, Manning was sent flying into the bushes, when Brennen threw himself on the ground. There was a terrific explosion, as a landmine blew Brennen to bits, and Manning escaped without a mark. Manning was deeply shocked, of course, but he was also profoundly overcome that his friend had sacrificed his own life for him. His right foot was just about to come down on the mine when Brennen spotted it, and dived. His intention was to get Manning out of the way, but it was impossible to do that without throwing himself in the line of fire. When Manning returned to the US, he joined a branch of the Franciscans, called Canons Regular and took 'Brennen' as his religious name. Some years after his ordination, he was visiting the mother of his friend Brennen, who was now quite old. She was a quiet little woman, and constant prayer was her daily sustenance. By way of saying something during a lull in the conversation, Manning turned to her and asked, "Do you think that he really loved me?" The quiet little woman sprang to life, was on her feet, and was pointing a finger into his face as she spoke with a clear firm voice: "Don't you ever ask me that question again. Of course he loved you. Didn't he die for you? What further proof could you need?"
Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel truth'

I have already died
Henri Nouwen tells of a Lutheran Bishop who was imprisoned in a German concentration camp during World War II and beaten by an SS Officer in order to extract a confession from him about his political action. The beatings continued to increase in intensity, but the bishop maintained his silence. Finally, the infuriated officer shrieked, "Don't you know that I can kill you?" The bishop looked into the eyes of his torturer and said, "Yes, I know -do what you want - but I have already died." Instantly as though paralyzed, the officer could no longer raise his arm. It was as if power over the bishop had been taken from him. All his cruelties had been based on the assumption that the bishop's physical life was his most precious possession and therefore he would be willing to make any concession to save it. But with the grounds for violence gone, torture was futile.
Anthony Castle in 'More Quotes and Anecdotes'

Ready to die that others may live
There was a report of a coal mining accident. Many miners escaped with their lives, but three men were trapped somewhere deep within the earth's crust. Whether they were dead or alive no one knew. What made the accident even more frustrating was the presence of intense heat and noxious gases within the mine itself. If the rocks had not crushed them, they very well would have been asphyxiated by the fumes or killed by the heat. Two days went by before a search expedition was allowed to even enter the mine because of heat and fumes. Even then there was a great danger in store for anyone who would dare descend into what could be a deep black grave. A brief interview was conducted with one of the members of the search expedition as he was preparing to enter the mine. A reporter asked him, "Sir, are you aware of the noxious gases and the extreme danger of the mines." The fireman replied, "Yes, I am aware." The reporter asked again, "Are you still going down?" And the man replied, "The men may still be alive." Without another word of explanation he put on his gas mask, climbed into the elevator and descended into the black inferno of the mine. That rescuer put his life on the line that others might live. That's what Jesus did - by entering Jerusalem, He put his life on the line that others might have life.
John Rose in 'John's Sunday Homilies'

Specially for you
The young man was at the end of his rope. Seeing no way out, he dropped to his knees in prayer. "Lord, I can't go on," he said. "I have too heavy a cross to bear." The Lord replied, "My son, if you can't bear its weight, just place your cross inside this room. Then, open that other door and pick out any cross you wish." The man was filled with relief. "Thank you, Lord," he sighed, and he did as he was told. Upon entering the other door, he saw many crosses, some so large the tops were not visible. Then, he spotted a tiny cross leaning against a far wall. "I'd like that one, Lord," he whispered. And the Lord replied, "My son, that is the cross you just brought in."
Anonymous

We join our sufferings to those of Christ, then they make sense
A.J. Cronin tells of his days as a medical officer to the Welsh mining company in his book Adventures in Two Worlds. I have told you of Olwen Davies, the middle aged district nurse who for more than twenty years, with fortitude and patience, calmness and selflessness, served the people of Tregenny. This unconscious selflessness, which above all seemed the keynote of her character, was so poorly rewarded, it worried me. Although she was much beloved by the people, her salary was most inadequate. And late one night after a particularly strenuous case, I ventured to protest to her as we drank a cup of tea together. "Nurse," I said, "Why don't you make them pay you more? It is ridiculous that you should work for so little." She raised her eyebrows slightly. But she smiled. "I have enough to get along." "No, really," I persisted, "you ought to have an extra pound a week at least. God knows you are worth it." There was a pause. Her smile remained, but her gaze held a gravity which startled me. "Doctor," she said, "if God knows I am worth it, that's all that matters to me." - Are we content to do our work in silence, knowing that God knows our efforts, concerns and sufferings?
Gerard Fuller in 'Stories for All Seasons'


3. From Sermons.com

Some years ago a book was written by Gene Smith, a noted American historian. The title was "When The Cheering Stopped." It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy. 

On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn't believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be all right. 

The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President's health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man. 

It's a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. There are some exceptions, of course, but not too many.

It happened that way to Jesus...

There is a time-honored story about a little boy who was sick. It was Palm Sunday and the children waved palm branches to open the service. But this young man stayed home from church with his mother.  

His father returned from church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked, "Why do we wave palm branches on Palm Sunday, Dad, and why do we call it Palm Sunday?"  

"You see," his Dad explained, "when Jesus came into town, everyone waved palm branches to honor him, so we got palm branches in the worship service today."  

The little boy replied, "Aw, Shucks! The one Sunday I miss is the Sunday that Jesus shows up."

Well, I'm confident that Jesus will show up today, even though we will not be able to welcome him with quite the excitement with which the crowd in Jerusalem welcomed him 2,000 years ago. Someone has compared the reception Jesus received to a ticker-tape parade in New York City honoring heroes and celebrities. 

Some of our young people might wonder what ticker-tape is. For those who may never have seen the stuff, ticker-tape refers to long, narrow strands of paper, with holes punched in them. These strands of paper once carried information about the performance of the New York Stock Exchange.  

As the information was entered by machines, holes were punched in the tape as it fed through, and other machines would read the information for the benefit of brokers and investors. It was sort of an early computer--all very modern in the first half of the twentieth century. But there was a problem--what do you do with the tape once it had gone through the reader and was no longer useful?  

One cynic says since all that ticker-tape was waste paper and, even then, expensive to get rid of, some enterprising person had the bright idea of staging a parade for some hero and dumping the whole mess out the window.  

This is not quite true. Actually, the greatest honor that the city of New York can bestow upon an individual or a collection of individuals, say a championship sports team, is to throw a ticker-tape parade.  Since the first parade in 1886, 204 of these celebrations have taken place. Since then thousands of tons of paper have descended on the heads of various kinds of heroes...
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There Is Still Hope

The reality is that, if we figure to survive in this world, we had better have hope. The ancients knew that. Do you remember Pandora? Mythology has her as a lady endowed with every charm...the gift of all the gods. She was sent to earth with a little box which she had been forbidden to open, but curiosity finally got the better of her...she lifted the lid and out from that box escaped every conceivable kind of terror. Pandora made haste to close the box up again, but it was too late. There was only one thing left...HOPE. That was the ancients' way of saying how important hope is. Even when all else is lost, there is still hope. 

This was what had sustained the Israelite faithful from generation to generation. This was what energized the crowd along Jesus' parade route that day. 

David E. Leininger, Sunday's Coming!
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Creating Turmoil

In his book, The Freedom Revolution and the Churches, Robert Spike recalls an incident from the early years of the turbulent civil rights movement. Flying out of Jackson, Mississippi, Spike overhears the conversation of a Catholic sister, sitting across the aisle from him, with her seat companion. The sister is lamenting all the unrest in Mississippi, and she complains about the "outside agitators," the students and church leaders who have come to her state in support of civil rights, certain that their presence is provoking violence on the part of white racists. "I do not question their dedication, nor even the rightness of their position," said the sister. "But surely it is a bad thing to create turmoil by stirring up people who feel differently." As the sister talks, all the while she is nervously fingering a cross hanging around her neck. 

There's a tragic irony in the sister's words and actions, not unlike that of the first Holy Week. For the one whose cross the sister holds most dear, Jesus, would never have taken the risk of going to Jerusalem and proclaiming a new way of living, would never have confronted comfortable patterns and ultimately endured the cross, had he followed the sister's philosophy. 

Joel D. Kline, What Did We See in Jesus?
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The Tomb Is Easier than the Cross

In just a matter of days Holy Week takes us from the mountain of festive palms to the mountain of Golgatha's despair. And that is why we resist it so. I mean, do we really need the emotional rollercoaster of Holy Week? What's so wrong with just jumping from one parade to the next and skipping all the sacrifice and death stuff? What's wrong with simply moving on to the joy of Easter, with its white bonnets, Easter eggs, family, friends, big ham dinner, and of course the empty tomb. 

Well, I think we know the answer to that. For starters, an empty tomb, at face value, is a lot easier to deal with than a dying, bleeding Savior on a cross. Add to that all the pain and suffering that comes with Holy Week, is it any wonder that the human tendency is to try and ignore the events of the week and simply move on to the Easter celebration? But as much as we'd like to skip Holy Week we know that the only way to Easter is through the cross. We know where the parade of Palm Sunday leads and we also know that we're part of that parade. That is to say, we know this intellectually. Our hearts are another story. Our hearts may be more in sync with the disciples and the fear and disbelief that led them to run away. It would seem that 2000 years later Jesus' disciples are still running away. 

Jeffrey K. London, And When You Think It's All Over
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You Brought Pavement?

I love the story about a rich man who wanted to take his money with him beyond the grave. When he was nearing death, he prayed fervently about this matter. An angel appeared to him and said, "Sorry, you can't take all your wealth with you after death, but the Lord will allow you to take one suitcase. Fill it with whatever you wish." Overjoyed the man got the largest suitcase he could find and filled it with pure gold bars. Soon afterward he died and showed up at the gates of heaven. St. Peter, seeing the suitcase, said, "Hold on, you can't bring that in here with you." The man explained how God had given him special permission." St. Peter checked it out with the angel Gabriel and the story was verified. "Okay," said St. Peter, "You can bring the suitcase in with you, but first I must check its contents." He opened the suitcase to see what worldly items this man had considered too precious to leave behind. "I don't believe it!" said St. Peter. "You brought pavement??" 

Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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He Expected Fruit

The disciples come upon a fig tree which is showing a burst of new leaves. But Jesus looks among them, and says that there is no fruit. He expected fruit. It is the condemnation of promise without fulfillment. Charles Lamb told of a certain man in whose life, he said, there were three stages. When he was young, people said of him, "He will do something." As he grew older and did nothing, they said of him, "He could do something if he tried." 

Towards the end of his life they said of him, "He might have done something, if he had tried." That could be the epitaph of too many Christians...and too many churches. 

Donald B. Strobe, Collected Words, www.Sermons.com
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What Is Good For Us Is Hidden

Martin Luther often spoke of this aspect of the theology of the cross, concerning how God works in a hidden way through contrasts. In a series of lectures that Luther gave in 1515 and 1516 on the Book of Romans, he wrote: "For what is good for us is hidden, and that so deeply that it is hidden under its opposite. Thus our life is hidden under death, love for ourselves under hate for ourselves ... salvation under damnation, heaven under hell ... And universally our every assertion of anything good is hidden under the denial of it, so that faith may have its place in God, who is a negative essence and goodness and wisdom and righteousness, who cannot be touched except by the negation of all our affirmations." 

Martin Luther had one more observation about why God operates this way - under contrasts and opposites. In another of his sermons, he put it this way: "He thrusts us into death and permits the devil to pounce on us. But it is not his purpose to devour us; he wants to test us, to purify us, and to manifest himself ever more to us, that we may recognize his love. Such trials and strife are to let us experience something that preaching alone is not able to do, namely, how powerful Christ is and how sincerely the Father loves us. So our trust in God and our knowledge of God will increase more and more, together with our praise and thanks for his mercy and blessing.  

Otherwise we would bumble along with our early, incipient faith. We would become indolent, unfruitful and inexperienced Christians, and would soon grow rusty." 

Mark Ellingsen, Preparation and Manifestation, CSS Publishing
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Lose Yourself

What does a Christ-like mind look like as we live in the world? We can see it clearly in the great saints and martyrs, such as Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer. I'm drawn as well to the idea William Placher suggests in his book "Narratives of a Vulnerable God" as he uses an illustration from the world of basketball. Professor Placher writes, "In basketball the players who are always asking, 'How am I doing? Am I getting my share of the shots?' Those are the ones who never reach their full potential. It is the players who lose themselves who find themselves. And it's that kind of self-forgetfulness that makes the best players." And isn't that the case with all of us in whatever we do?

I read about one of the fastest growing churches in the world, with branches in 32 countries already. It is called the Winners Church, and according to its leaders, it lives by a motto that comes from America's religious culture. Here's the motto: "Be happy. Be successful. Join the winners." People flock to that kind of church, I guess. But it all depends, doesn't it, on how we define winning? I wonder what kind of church you would have if your motto were "Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant." Or about this one for a motto, "Those who want to save their lives will lose them and those who lose their lives for my sake, will find them." 

Joanna Adams, A Beautiful Mind
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Passion Sunday: Surprising and Inevitable

At a pre-concert lecture, the conductor of a symphony orchestra was telling the audience about the major work that the orchestra would be performing at that evening's concert. The conductor told the people that if they listened carefully to the music, they would discover that it was both surprising and inevitable. On the one hand, the musical score would take a fair number of rather jarring and unexpected twists. There would be points in the concert when the blare of the trumpet or the sudden rolling of the timpani would seem to come from out of nowhere in a surprising fashion. On the other hand, however, the conductor noted that in the long run, these surprises would themselves become part of a larger coherence. Once listeners heard the entire piece from start to finish, they would find in the music an air of inevitability--how could it ever have been written any differently?

Surprising and inevitable. Palm Sunday and the events of Holy Week are both surprising and inevitable. The truth is that we are not completely sure what to make of Palm Sunday. After forty days of Lenten travel that have often focused on serious and sometimes dark subjects, suddenly we arrive at a day that seems at first blush to be surprisingly cheery. The Palm Sunday parade has color and spectacle, cheering and singing, festive voices and joyful exuberance. This seems like a happy day. Yet it would be completely appropriate if you were to ask, "What in the world is this day doing here given how close we are now to the cross!?" Is Palm Sunday a bright spot in the midst of the otherwise darker hues of Lent? Are we, for just a little while this morning, supposed to forget about all things dreary so that we can cry out some full-throated "Hosannas!"? Or is there also a sadness to this day that we must bear in mind?

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
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We Are Responsible for a Dead Church 

Some years ago, a new pastor was called to a spiritually dead church in a small Oklahoma town. The pastor spent the first week calling on as many members as possible, inviting them to the first Sunday service. But the effort failed. In spite of many calls, not a single member showed up for worship! So the pastor placed a notice in the local paper stating that since the church was dead, the pastor was going to give it a decent, Christian burial. The funeral for the church would be held at 2 p.m. on the following Sunday. 

Morbidly curious, the whole town turned out for the "funeral." In front of the pulpit, there was a large casket, smothered in flowers. After the eulogy was given, the pastor invited the congregation to come forward and pay their respects to the dead church. The long line of mourners filed by. Each one peered curiously into the open casket, and then quickly turned away with a guilty, sheepish look...

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More Anecdotes:

 
1. When The Cheering Stopped
Some years ago a book was written by Gene Smith, a noted American historian. The title was "When The Cheering Stopped." It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy.
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2. President Wilson in Europe after the War:
On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn't believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be all right. 
The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President's health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man. 
 It's a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. There are some exceptions, of course, but not too many.  
It happened that way to Jesus...  
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3.  Debtor's Prison:
One of the most gruesome, hopeless places in early nineteenth century England was "debtor's prison." Charles Dickens described it, but thousands of England's poor lived it first-hand. Everything the debtor owned was confiscated. Nothing was left. If any debts still remained, debtors were imprisoned until the balance owed could be paid. Which, of course, could never be, because the debtor was locked up. It was a situation without hope.  
That was "civilized" nineteenth century England. But according to ancient Jewish law, there were moral limits on what could be demanded in payment for debts. Among those things that were legally "off-limits" was a person's most important piece of clothing, their "cloak." Less substantial garments could be held as collateral. But a person's cloak was considered to be in a category by itself. A cloak offered warmth and protection. It provided modesty, shielding nakedness. A cloak doubled as clothing and shelter, functioning as haberdashery by day and as a bedroll by night.   
You could take a lot in payment for debts, but you could not take the cloak off someone's back.
But a cloak could always be OFFERED. Sir Walter Raleigh legendarily swept his cloak off his shoulders and flung it over a mud puddle so his Queen's foot would not be dampened. In today's gospel text cloaks were offered for theological, not meteorological reasons.  
As Jesus prepared to enter into Jerusalem proper, he intentionally "changes things up." The Galilean ministry is at an end. The time for keeping a low profile is over. It is a new messianic moment. Jesus had announced to his disciples the fate that awaited "the Son of Man" once he entered into the city of Jerusalem. As Jesus crossed into Jerusalem the Calvary cross already stood before him. He chooses to embody the image of the humble king, the meek Messiah, riding on a small and simple donkey. Jesus moves into Jerusalem with obedience and humility. Symbolically his back is already bared, readied for the cruelties and sacrifices that await him...
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4. There Is Still Hope 
The reality is that, if we figure to survive in this world, we had better have hope. The ancients knew that. Do you remember Pandora? Mythology has her as a lady endowed with every charm...the gift of all the gods. She was sent to earth with a little box which she had been forbidden to open, but curiosity finally got the better of her...she lifted the lid and out from that box escaped every conceivable kind of terror. Pandora made haste to close the box up again, but it was too late. There was only one thing left...HOPE. That was the ancients' way of saying how important hope is. Even when all else is lost, there is still hope.
This was what had sustained the Israelite faithful from generation to generation. This was what energized the crowd along Jesus' parade route that day.
David E. Leininger, Sunday's Coming!
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 5. Palm Sunday - Who Is That?
Picture Fifth Avenue in Manhattan--the stretch of road where the Macy's parade is held each Thanksgiving Day. Imagine that one spring day a kind of makeshift parade is being staged along upper Fifth Avenue near Central Park. But this is not the Macy's parade, not by a long shot. This is a relatively small affair: no floats, no tickertape, no giant balloon figures floating down the street. It's just a crowd of people waving some tree branches and throwing their coats into the road. At the center of it all is a modest, average looking fellow astride a donkey's colt which actually is too small for him to ride with any kind of dignity.
But the members of the parade entourage are nothing if not jubilantly excited. Especially the kids are making a lot of noise, singing and shouting. The enthusiasm of this little crowd is enough eventually to attract some attention. The people standing on the plushly carpeted steps leading into the Plaza complex swivel their heads. The horses hooked up to Central Park carriages turn a lazy eye toward the parade even as the people in the carriages peer out past the canopy to see what the commotion is all about. Shoppers coming out of Saks Fifth Avenue and the Time Warner Center also start to glance around to discover the source of all the hubbub. And inevitably people begin to ask, "Who is that?" In reply the branch-waving, coat-tossing folks excitedly answer, "Who is this, you ask! Why, it's Joshua Jones, a preacher from North Platte in Nebraska!" 
"Oh. So it's not Donald Trump? Not Tom Cruise or Katie Couric, not Bill Clinton? Joshua Jones from Nebraska? Oh. That's nice." But then eyes roll, eyebrows rise, and smirks are repressed as the big city folks go back to their big city business. 
Granted that Jerusalem circa 30 A.D. was not New York City. Granted that maybe Jesus' name on that Sunday long ago was a little bit better known than the Joshua Jones in my analogy. Granted, and yet . . . there is something about Matthew 21 which bears resemblance to this allegorical story. "Who is that?" the Jerusalemites ask in verse 10. In verse 11 comes the reply: "Jesus, the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee." 
Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
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6. Save Us
When we wave our palms and boldly cry out, "Hosanna," do we dare imagine what we really want God to save us from? Save me from anger. Save me from cancer. Save me from depression. Save me from debt. Save me from the strife in my family. Save me from boredom. Save me from getting sent back to Iraq. Save me from the endless cycle of violence. Save me from humiliation. Save me from staring at the ceiling at three a.m. wondering why I exist. Save me from bitterness. Save me from arrogance. Save me from loneliness. Save me, God, save me from my fears.
In viewing Palm Sunday from that angle, we can begin to see the potential for some real depth in this celebration, for embedded in our quaint pageantry is an appeal to God that originates in the most vulnerable places inside of us; and it bubbles, almost beyond our control, to the surface. "Hosanna." "Save us." Please God take the broken places that will tear us apart and make them whole. We beseech you, God, jump into the water and drag our almost-drowned selves to shore. "Save us." "Hosanna."
Scott Black Johnston, Save Us
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7. Power through Love
Back in our early seminary years Janice and I visited one of her aunts and uncles in Pennsylvania. The uncle had been a car dealer much of his life, and had always wanted a Lincoln Continental, the height of luxury in a car thirty years ago. We were going out to dinner together, and as we walked to the garage he somewhat sheepishly told us about his recent purchase. And then, rather apologetically he asked, "Did you ever want something so much, and then when you got it, wondered why in the world it had been so important to you?"
Might that not be akin to the reaction of many in the Palm Sunday crowd? They recognized something special, something unique, about Jesus, but Jesus does not fit their preconceived notions of how the Messiah ought to act. They do not know what to make of one who, in spite of a commanding presence, talks not of power through force, but the power that comes through emptying oneself, taking the form of a servant, dying to self in order to find genuine life. The crowd does not know what to make of one who embraces a different kind of peace - the peace that comes from recognition that love, and love alone, can meet and master greed and lust and hatred. The crowd little knows what to make of one who challenges us to embrace a love so potent that, in place of vengeance, we can turn the other cheek and go the extra mile in relationships. Jesus speaks of a love so powerful that it can lead us to face the full fury of hatred and enmity with the prayer, "God, forgive them, for they do not understand what they are doing." It is a love so transforming that it empowers us to confront life - and death - with a spirit of trust: "Gracious God, into your hands I commend my spirit." 
Joel D. Kline, What Did We See in Jesus?
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8. Creating Turmoil
In his book, The Freedom Revolution and the Churches, Robert Spike recalls an incident from the early years of the turbulent civil rights movement. Flying out of Jackson, Mississippi, Spike overhears the conversation of a Catholic sister, sitting across the aisle from him, with her seat companion. The sister is lamenting all the unrest in Mississippi, and she complains about the "outside agitators," the students and church leaders who have come to her state in support of civil rights, certain that their presence is provoking violence on the part of white racists. "I do not question their dedication, nor even the rightness of their position," said the sister. "But surely it is a bad thing to create turmoil by stirring up people who feel differently." As the sister talks, all the while she is nervously fingering a cross hanging around her neck.
There's a tragic irony in the sister's words and actions, not unlike that of the first Holy Week. For the one whose cross the sister holds most dear, Jesus, would never have taken the risk of going to Jerusalem and proclaiming a new way of living, would never have confronted comfortable patterns and ultimately endured the cross, had he followed the sister's philosophy.
Joel D. Kline, What Did We See in Jesus?
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9. The Tomb Is Easier than the Cross
In just a matter of days Holy Week takes us from the mountain of festive palms to the mountain of Golgatha's despair. And that is why we resist it so. I mean, do we really need the emotional rollercoaster of Holy Week? What's so wrong with just jumping from one parade to the next and skipping all the sacrifice and death stuff? What's wrong with simply moving on to the joy of Easter, with its white bonnets, Easter eggs, family, friends, big ham dinner, and of course the empty tomb.
Well, I think we know the answer to that. For starters, an empty tomb, at face value, is a lot easier to deal with than a dying, bleeding Savior on a cross. Add to that all the pain and suffering that comes with Holy Week, is it any wonder that the human tendency is to try and ignore the events of the week and simply move on to the Easter celebration? But as much as we'd like to skip Holy Week we know that the only way to Easter is through the cross. We know where the parade of Palm Sunday leads and we also know that we're part of that parade. That is to say, we know this intellectually. Our hearts are another story. Our hearts may be more in sync with the disciples and the fear and disbelief that led them to run away. It would seem that 2000 years later Jesus' disciples are still running away.
Jeffrey K. London, And When You Think It's All Over
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10. Walking the Walk
Christ's commitment reminds me of a Japanese social worker who lived before and during the Second World War named Toyohiko Kagawa. Kagawa was a devout Christian whose faith caused him to have an extraordinary impact on the working conditions of ordinary citizens in Japan. He was so well thought of in that land that he came on a mission to the U.S. before the beginning of the Second World War to seek to prevent that terrible conflict breaking out. Even though he failed in this effort, he gained international renown for his Christian witness and selfless work.
Years later Kagawa was on a lecture tour to the United States. Two college students were walking across their campus after hearing him speak. One of them confessed that he was disappointed in Kagawa's simple message.
After some reflection, the other student replied: "I suppose it really doesn't matter very much what a man says when he has lived as Kagawa has lived."
That is true. In today's vernacular, it is more important that Kagawa walked the walk and not just talked the talk. A consecrated life is far more eloquent and convincing than any well thought out argument. The world will not accept the way of Christ because we can out talk our spiritual opponents, but only because we can out live them. Such a demonstration of the superior quality of our faith will verify our witness more readily than any other effort in which we can engage. Kagawa did that superbly. His life, however, was simply a reflection of the life of his Master.
Jesus walked the walk more perfectly than anyone who has ever lived. He lived out the ethic which he taught. He was totally committed to doing his Father's will. He was a man of courage. He was a man of commitment.
King Duncan
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11. What Is Good For Us Is Hidden
Martin Luther often spoke of this aspect of the theology of the cross, concerning how God works in a hidden way through contrasts. In a series of lectures that Luther gave in 1515 and 1516 on the Book of Romans, he wrote: "For what is good for us is hidden, and that so deeply that it is hidden under its opposite. Thus our life is hidden under death, love for ourselves under hate for ourselves ... salvation under damnation, heaven under hell ... And universally our every assertion of anything good is hidden under the denial of it, so that faith may have its place in God, who is a negative essence and goodness and wisdom and righteousness, who cannot be touched except by the negation of all our affirmations."
Martin Luther had one more observation about why God operates this way - under contrasts and opposites. In another of his sermons, he put it this way: "He thrusts us into death and permits the devil to pounce on us. But it is not his purpose to devour us; he wants to test us, to purify us, and to manifest himself ever more to us, that we may recognize his love. Such trials and strife are to let us experience something that preaching alone is not able to do, namely, how powerful Christ is and how sincerely the Father loves us. So our trust in God and our knowledge of God will increase more and more, together with our praise and thanks for his mercy and blessing.
Otherwise we would bumble along with our early, incipient faith. We would become indolent, unfruitful and inexperienced Christians, and would soon grow rusty."
Mark Ellingsen
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12. Passion Sunday: Surprising and Inevitable
At a pre-concert lecture, the conductor of a symphony orchestra was telling the audience about the major work that the orchestra would be performing at that evening's concert. The conductor told the people that if they listened carefully to the music, they would discover that it was both surprising and inevitable. On the one hand, the musical score would take a fair number of rather jarring and unexpected twists. There would be points in the concert when the blare of the trumpet or the sudden rolling of the timpani would seem to come from out of nowhere in a surprising fashion. On the other hand, however, the conductor noted that in the long run, these surprises would themselves become part of a larger coherence. Once listeners heard the entire piece from start to finish, they would find in the music an air of inevitability--how could it ever have been written any differently?
Surprising and inevitable...
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13. Two Teenagers:
Background:
This poor man lucked out with neither of his sons. He loved them both and they both were goofs. The first was too wild, the second was too rigid and nasty. Neither one appreciated their father’s love. Both tried to exploit him. What’s more he knew they were exploiting him.   
 This is not a story of a prodigal son, but of an indulgent father, indeed of a hyper-indulgent father. Note that he runs to meet the first son and cuts off his phony speech. Note too that he is incredibly patient with the mean-spirited and ungrateful second son. This story is not supposed to provide a model for family life. Rather it tells us that God loves us like the indulgent father, so much that my human standards, he’s quite over the top. 
Story:
Once there were two teenagers whose parents went away for the weekend. As some teenagers do, they decided they would have a party. You know the rest. A couple hundred people showed up. They drank all the family liquor, trashed the house, tore up the garden, wrecked the family cars, burned down the garage, smashed the windows in the neighboring homes, rioted when the police came, and even threw beer cans on the rectory lawn (Really!).  
 When the parents came home to find the National Guard patrolling their streets, they said to their children, “You shouldn’t have done that.” Why not, said the kids. You went away it’s your fault, not ours. You should have never trusted us. 
 But the parents love their children so much that they weren’t angry at them.
 That’s the way God love us.
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14. A BOY WAITS FOR THE BUS
There's an old story of the boy who stood on a sidewalk, waiting on a bus. A man walking by spotted the boy, and gave him some gentle instruction. "Son," he said, "if you're waiting on the bus, you need to move to the street corner. That's where the bus stops for passengers."

"It's OK," said the boy. "I'll just wait right here, and the bus will stop for me."

The man repeated his argument, but the boy never moved. Just then, the bus appeared. Amazingly, the bus pulled over to where the boy stood, and the child hopped on. The man on the sidewalk stood speechless. The boy turned around in the doorway and said, "Mister, I knew the bus would stop here, because the bus driver is my dad!"

When you've got a family relationship with the bus driver, you don't need a bus stop. If your mother is a US Senator, you won't need an appointment to slip into her office. If you've given your heart to the King of Kings, you're in a royal family of unspeakable proportions.
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15. ADD:
Young Harold had a really bad case of Attention Deficit Disorder. On Palm Sunday, Harold’s Sunday School teacher sent empty plastic eggs home with each of her students. Mrs. Wilson told them to bring something back in the eggs next Sunday to represent Easter. She really didn’t expect Harold to bring anything, because he never listened in class. The next Sunday her children brought their eggs back. Susan had a pretty spring flower inside her egg. Joey had a little cross in his egg. Jackie had put a plastic butterfly in her egg. But, just as Mrs. Wilson suspected, there was nothing in Harold’s egg. She was surprised that he even remembered to bring it back! She had praised each of the other children for what they brought, but she didn’t say anything about Harold’s empty egg. Harold looked at her with anticipation and said, "Mrs. Wilson, you didn’t say anything about my egg!" Mrs. Wilson said, "But, Harold, you don’t have any reminder of Easter in your egg." Harold replied, "Uh-huh! It’s empty just like Jesus’ tomb!"
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15. John Singer Sargent at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts
I attended a wonderful exhibition of the works of John Singer Sargent at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. It went on for rooms and rooms. There seemed to be hundreds of works. The artist must never have rested. There was as best as I can recall only one religious work. And that was a riveting crucifixion scene.

Studying Sargent's brass relief, one could better understand why Cicero wrote that crucifixion was the "most heartless and most harrowing" manner of execution.

This solitary work by the master artist Sargent was a fulfillment of the line of a priest who said so prophetically, "The world can never get away from that strange Man on the cross."

The crucifixion was of a type that I had never seen before. It had been made for the Boston Public Library about 1899.  Beneath each of the outstretched arms of the Christ, there stood a figure. One was clearly the young disciple John. The other was a woman, no doubt His mother.

Each one held a chalice. They were catching His precious blood as it flowed from His hands wounded by the nails. They obviously wished to collect each and every drop of it.

The right foot of the Saviour was standing on a serpent. He was meant by Sargent to be a symbol for Satan. By His death Jesus the Christ had bested him.
And at the very base of the representation was a pelican. She was feeding her young with her own flesh and blood. It was a reference to His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. I recall wondering whether the artist knew of the line: "All the love of God crammed into a tiny piece of Bread."

Sargent had himself squeezed a great deal of theology into one brass relief.     For me, John Singer Sargent had brought some fresh insights into the horrible and painful death of the Messiah. It was also the case for other spectators. Many stood around his crucifixion work studying every detail. No one spoke. They were transfixed. They better understood I think the awesome price the redemption had cost the Christ.

Yet, I do think Mr Sargent would have been surprised to learn that the cross did not appear as a Christian symbol till about the fifth century. Many archaeological digs have discovered early Christian symbols other than the cross. One thinks immediately of the ever-popular fish whose Greek letters stand for "Jesus Christ Son of God Saviour." There was the anchor which symbolized hope for the early Christians. And there were various types of Christograms. These were the first letters of Jesus Christ in Greek placed one on top of the other. But there were no crosses to be found among these early century finds.

Why? No less an authority than Dominican Father Jerome Murphy O'Connor, a professor at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, answers the question for Catholic News Services. "The cross at the time," he says, "was being used for crucifixion and torture. To wear it around one's neck would be like wearing a miniature electric chair around your neck today. The idea was repulsive."  Furthermore, many Christians felt it would be dreadful to utilize a symbol of sheer disgrace for their flourishing creed.  Other scholars confirm Fr Murphy O'Connor's view.   Some observers also go on to declare that if the Christians were to wear a cross, they would be inviting serious troubles from the police. They would be broadcasting the fact that they were indeed the followers of the Christ - Him who had been crucified outside Jerusalem by the Romans. So wisely they chose the more subtle symbols of the fish, the anchor, and the Christograms. These were codes that those who did not follow Jesus Christ would not fathom. These early centuries were of course the period in which the Christians underwent serious persecutions for their faith.

In the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Happily he brought an abrupt halt to the centuries-old barbarous crucifixion. Then and only then did Christians accept the cross as their universal symbol. But intriguingly Fr Murphy O'Connor asserts it took another two centuries before the Christ figure was placed on that cross. The why of it remains a mystery.

As we begin this solemn week, we should carry with us this refrain: no one is too bad to be forgiven.
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Sermons. com
Some years ago a book was written by Gene Smith, a noted American historian. The title was "When The Cheering Stopped." It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy. 

On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn't believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be all right.
The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President's health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.
It's a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. There are some exceptions, of course, but not too many.
It happened that way to Jesus...
There is a time-honored story about a little boy who was sick. It was Palm Sunday and the children waved palm branches to open the service. But this young man stayed home from church with his mother.
His father returned from church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked, "Why do we wave palm branches on Palm Sunday, Dad, and why do we call it Palm Sunday?"  
"You see," his Dad explained, "when Jesus came into town, everyone waved palm branches to honor him, so we got palm branches in the worship service today." 
The little boy replied, "Aw, Shucks! The one Sunday I miss is the Sunday that Jesus shows up."
Well, I'm confident that Jesus will show up today, even though we will not be able to welcome him with quite the excitement with which the crowd in Jerusalem welcomed him 2,000 years ago. Someone has compared the reception Jesus received to a ticker-tape parade in New York City honoring heroes and celebrities. 
Some of our young people might wonder what ticker-tape is. For those who may never have seen the stuff, ticker-tape refers to long, narrow strands of paper, with holes punched in them. These strands of paper once carried information about the performance of the New York Stock Exchange. 
As the information was entered by machines, holes were punched in the tape as it fed through, and other machines would read the information for the benefit of brokers and investors. It was sort of an early computer--all very modern in the first half of the twentieth century. But there was a problem--what do you do with the tape once it had gone through the reader and was no longer useful? 
One cynic says since all that ticker-tape was waste paper and, even then, expensive to get rid of, some enterprising person had the bright idea of staging a parade for some hero and dumping the whole mess out the window.
This is not quite true. Actually, the greatest honor that the city of New York can bestow upon an individual or a collection of individuals, say a championship sports team, is to throw a ticker-tape parade.  Since the first parade in 1886, 204 of these celebrations have taken place. Since then thousands of tons of paper have descended on the heads of various kinds of heroes...