Palm Sunday 2023

Isaiah 50: 4-7 Philippians 2: 6-11    Matthew 26:14-27, 66

Palm Sunday 21Each year in Holy Week we read two accounts of the Passion of Jesus.  These are not different stories but they are accounts of the Passion from two different perspectives – given to us by the Holy Spirit to satisfy, perhaps, different spiritual needs of the same Christian community. The Passion according to John, which is always read on Good Friday, emphasises the Suffering and the Salvific work of Jesus.  It prompts us to look at the Cross and consider what Jesus has done.

The Passion read on Palm Sunday is always from one of the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark or Luke, and it helps us to identify with the events of Holy Week, identify, as far as we are able, with the person of Jesus.

This liturgical year is the year of Matthew.  Matthew in his account of the Passion emphasises the royal dignity with which Jesus suffers.  His Death is the sacrifice of the New Covenant and His Blood is poured out in order to ratify this New Covenant.  

A covenant is an agreement or pact between two parties, with obligations undertaken by both sides.  The entire Bible is the story of two covenants or testaments between God and God’s people.

The first Covenant was made with Noah when God promised never to destroy the earth again.  The people’s part of the agreement was to end murder and the destruction of life.  The second stage of this Covenant was with Abraham, who was to become the father of many nations.  The third stage of the Covenant was with Moses.  God would bring God’s people out of slavery and the people, in turn, would obey God’s law.

In the mind of the people two actions were associated with covenants: the shedding of blood and a meal.  Blood was understood as the carrier of life and a meal was the sign of the unity of the two parties of the covenant.

Today’s account of the Passion begins with the meal, at which Judas plans to betray Jesus, and finishes with the Death and Burial of Jesus, the brutal and sorrowful shedding of Blood. We come to realise that the Meal and the Shedding of Blood are one and the same in the Covenant that we have with the Lord.  The Eucharist is the reminder to us of the shedding of the Blood of Jesus and is, for us, the sacrifice of the New Covenant.

“The blessing cup that we bless is a communion with the body of Christ …….  Every time you eat this Bread and drink this Cup, you are proclaiming His death” (1 Cor 10:16, 11:26)