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Blog: March 24, 2024

Fr. Jeff and others share reflections on the Sunday readings.

March 24, 2024

A Message from Fr. jeff

“When the great crowd that had come to the feast heard 

that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 

they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out:

‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel.’”

“Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them

one prisoner whom they requested.

A man called Barabbas was then in prison 

along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.

The crowd came forward and began to ask him

to do for them as he was accustomed.

Pilate answered, 

‘Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?’

For he knew that it was out of envy 

that the chief priests had handed him over.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd 

to have him release Barabbas for them instead.

Pilate again said to them in reply,

‘Then what do you want me to do 

with the man you call the king of the Jews?’

They shouted again, ‘Crucify him.’

Pilate said to them, ‘Why? What evil has he done?’

They only shouted the louder, ‘Crucify him.’”

Based on the crowds shouting “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday and “Crucify him!” on Good Friday, I have often thought or heard a version of the question, “How or why would the crowd change so quickly?” The short answer (after much review and study) is, I think most likely, that they were substantially different crowds with different motivations and interests. The crowds were not the same people, for the most part. They were not fickle, they were simply different. Yet, on the Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, our liturgy still moves from the Triumphal Entry to the Passion (and ultimately the Paschal Mystery in the Liturgy of the Eucharist). While not based in the fickle hearts of those in Jerusalem at the time, our celebration still does move from great expectations to dashed hopes. From the entrance of a king to the death of the messiah. In a sense, from light to darkness. 

It is also possible to understand it as a movement from promise to fulfillment. We may often think of hosanna as a form of praise as, in fact, the dictionary even defines hosanna as an expression of adoration, praise, or joy. Yet, the original meaning is more akin to “I beg you to save!” or “Please save us!” The crowd’s enthusiasm at Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem is a cry for salvation, for their savior. On Good Friday, the crowd calling out to crucify Jesus is enacting the means of that salvation. Even if unwittingly, they are bringing about the fulfillment of the promise. We must remember that the primary actor, even when he appears passive, in the narrative is Jesus. It is our savior who triumphantly enters Jerusalem, and it is our savior who lovingly ascends the cross. In embracing the cross, in his death, Jesus fulfills the promise of salvation. He saves us from our sins. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In love, Jesus stretches out his hands between heaven and earth, uniting us with God. Jesus hears the cry of the poor, of the crowds begging for salvation, of each of us. In his death, we are saved. In his death, we are reborn. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!