Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Peace Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console.
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

Last Sunday when some Greek pilgrims came to Jesus’ disciples saying: ‘We want to see Jesus’ which was responded to by using the image that lives out in the Passion story - that of the grain of wheat. His entry into Jerusalem was not a parade but a protest against colonial power, militarism Rome’s oppressive dominance under Pontus Pilate. Jesus rides into town on a donkey as people hoped for an end to Roman oppression – and that Jesus would initiate it. He was making a rebellious statement and protesting the physical and mental colonisation of Rome and his entrance recalled the servant kingship of David the shepherd. “Hosanna” they cried, seeing Jesus as a new David, a liberator from the Roman tyranny – a tyranny replicated at this moment in Palestine.

This year we focus on Mark’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. I also want to draw attention to Luke’s account which includes Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees. Luke tells us that crowds welcome Jesus saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Jesus is greeted like a king, and arrives on a donkey, not a war horse. This greeting also echoes the song of the angels at his birth: “Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Luke reminds us that though no earthly king, Jesus’ authority and reign is one of true peace.  According to Luke, the Pharisees, were concerned by this demonstration by the crowd and say to Jesus, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”  He responds, “I tell you, if these people were silent, the stones would shout out!” Similar words were written by the prophet Habakkuk at a time of great distress in Israel’s history. City after city was destroyed by the Assyrians, and the people lived in fear. Habakkuk cries out to God, “How long? How long will we cry for help, God, and you won’t listen?” God does answer and makes it clear that every injustice the people have suffered at the hands of enemies is seen and that liberation is coming. God who sees all that is happening and says, “The very stones will cry out from the wall, and the plaster will respond from the woodwork.” Even inanimate objects cry out at the injustice and pain and hardship people must endure. God hears and responds, and Jesus is telling the Pharisees that in the face of injustice and oppression nothing can stop people from crying out for liberation. And if these voices are muffled, then even the rocks would take up the cry instead. Rev Munther Isaac, Lutheran Pastor of the church in Bethlehem, condemns many when he said in February 2024, ‘When churches justify a genocide or are silent watching from a distance, making carefully crafted balanced statements – the credibility of the Gospel is at stake’.  Pope Francis recently said, “I will never tire of reiterating my call, addressed in particular to those who have political responsibility: ‘stop the bombs and missiles now, end hostile stances [everywhere] …. Every day, in my heart, I carry the pain and suffering of the populations in Palestine and Israel due to the ongoing hostilities.”


We cannot read the Palm Sunday story without reflecting on the longing for change in people around the world because the Passion is always playing out somewhere. Jesus is walking before us, carrying his cross, in Gaza, Ukraine, Sudan, Nigeria, and many other places as bodies are beaten and broken unto death along with unbearable betrayals and unjust accusations. We cannot avoid this painful drama that is happening before our eyes – yet there is silence, betrayal and avoidance by people in government and in the churches.  The credibility of the Gospel is at stake. What we call evil can be loud as it calls attention to itself and prevents us from seeing or noticing little acts of goodness and kindness along the way.  Whereas there were loud cries to “Crucify him!” there were people along the way to Golgotha who responded: the woman who silently anointed him with an alabaster jar of precious oil; the man who quietly offered an upper room for his last supper; the man provided a donkey for Jesus to ride on;  Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus carry his cross to Calvary; the nameless person who offered him a drink; and, the centurion who whispers to himself: “Truly, this man was the son of God.” What we call evil is still loud, boisterous, and even aggressive as it was in Jesus’ time. Evil still tries to intimidate, outshine, outvoice, saturate, possess and overpower. Its voice can dominate social media with sound bites and images. It calls attention to itself and tends to drown the little acts of goodness and kindness that people continue to show. But goodness will not change its ways. It will continue to side with the God who has stripped self of power, and is in solidarity with all who suffer. Jesus does not come with power but as a lowly servant. Today, we are invited to walk humbly with this selfless, self-sacrificing God who loves us unconditionally. We stand with this quiet and self-effacing servant-leader who looks every bit forsaken and defeated.


We need to go to the places that hurt and confront realities that make us uneasy, look at ourselves with attention to the ways in which we fail to respond. Jesus ended up on a cross alone. Even his disciples did not learn the lesson Jesus tried to teach them – that real change—in our lives and in our world—takes painstaking attention to the details, to the work that happens behind the scenes, in unhistoric acts that do not get media attention. Jesus’ journey is one of solidarity with all who suffer, and his death is the ultimate act of nonviolence. He refused to give in to the logic of violence and power that world leaders support but revealed the power of love.


Jesus invites us to join him in living a gospel that will take our whole lives, every moment, every day, dedicated to ushering in a new reality. Can we find the courage to keep showing up? Throughout history women and men have shown us what it looks like to live lives of nonviolent and sacrificial love. We are called again to be participants, not spectators, in this drama. Being a spectator turns the liturgy into theatre with little effect on our Christian commitment to follow Jesus in a world marked by violent threats people foolish enough to speak truth to power and challenge the status.


God is involved with the pain and suffering of our world and through us in the quest for justice and peace. Peace – the victory of shalom - is won by the awesome power of compassionate love, in and through solidarity with those who suffer. If God seems silent, it may be because we are looking for God in all the wrong places – the places of power rather than of vulnerability, self-sacrifice and wounds. God may be waiting for us to be there and speak out!!


Jesus’ death reveals God’s continuing identification with all victims through to the present moment. The Crucified reveals a God who now questions any form of worship that forgets the tragic world where the weak, defenceless continue to suffer and be ‘crucified.’


Jesus’ crucifixion becomes an ongoing challenge to us: God cannot be separated from those who are suffering. We cannot adore the Crucified One and avert our eyes or turn our backs on the suffering of so many human beings whose lives are destroyed by hunger, war, and poverty…. And further neglect when they are blamed for their circumstances and punished for seeking protection (e.g., asylum seekers). We rebel against this culture of neglect and indifference (Pope Francis). God calls out to us through these victims. Otherwise, we cannot see God. We cannot be spectators to this suffering or nourish a naive illusion of innocence.


Jesus’ entry into the holy city makes every place of suffering holy ground. When we Christians lift our eyes to the face of the Crucified One, we see God’s reckless and extravagant love for all. We need to look at the face of the Crucified and find there the faces of many others near and far who call on our compassionate love and solidarity. And, so through the cross we know that God isn’t standing smugly at a distance but that God's abundant grace is hiding in, with, and under all this broken shit in the world around us. God is present with us in all of it. God is so for us that there is no place God will not go to be with us.  Nothing separates you from the love of God in Jesus…. not insults, not betrayal, not suffering, and not even death itself.  On the Cross we see a self-emptying God who pursues us with relentless love and who ultimately will enter the grave and the very stench of death in order to say ‘even here, even here I will not be without you.’


Palm Sunday galvanises us to transformative action. It gives us a glimpse of the victory of love over hatred and life over death. God’s unconditional love in Jesus brought about the victory of shalom. We see in Jesus the way of disarming hatred with love, evil with goodness, violence with benevolence, indifference with compassion. We are therefore encouraged to work and turn the tide in favour of the least of our brothers and sisters, confident that the Reign of God will prevail.




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