Have you ever experienced an urgent need or a situation that does not give room for an alternative approach or plan “B”? If you have not, you may be temporarily lucky. Due to our human limitations, we often fall into some needful situations that often overwhelm us. However, some needs are material while others are spiritual and more important. In the ceremony of the Palm Sunday, we shall see our Lord expressing an urgent need for a donkey and a colt to convey him to Jerusalem. Why did he make the specific request of these beasts of burden en route the site of his passion and death?
Today is the Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. We have arrived at the doorway to the Holy Week. The ceremony of today begins with our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. This entry is a very special one, and we are invited to reflect deeply on the events that preceded this entry into Jerusalem and how they relate to us and this holy season.
From the Gospel Reading at the opening ceremony (Matt. 21:1-11), we learn that our Lord made a very specific and unusual request for a donkey (also known ass) and a colt from a specific village near Bethphage. Notably, the donkey and the colt were tied to a tree. The instruction is that the two disciples that were sent should untie them and bring them urgently to him.
The donkey could be an older version of the colt and they represent the old and the young at least physically. Spiritually, the donkey and the colt stand for the souls of both the old and the young that are tied to the tree of sin. The tree in the narrative represents the tree at the middle of the garden in the Book of Genesis (3:3). Our lord’s journey into Jerusalem is to tie our sins to the tree of redemption; the Cross. We could also see the donkey and the colt as reminiscent of Adam and Eve who erred at that the Eden tree and whose disobedience would receive attention at the tree of Calvary.
Our Lord’s journey into Jerusalem on a donkey shows that he came to carry our burden, exemplified by the action of the beasts of burden (donkey) moving our Lord into the city of Jerusalem which is the location of his passion and death. Of course, we know that donkeys are only used to carry loads not human beings. This confirms our Lord’s invitation (Matt. 11:28):
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
This entry into Jerusalem would not be triumphant without the donkey, and the colt and that was why our Lord could place a note of urgency on them. Drawing from the narrative, our Lord’s passion requires the urgent need of our souls for which the Cross stands at Calvary. The entry was joyful though the mission is painful (the passion). The joyous entry shows our Lord’s love and urgent need to save our souls. He was joyfully looking at the victory over death.
Our Lord triumphantly moved to Jerusalem from Bethphage riding on a donkey. In the same way, but more significantly, he would carry our souls triumphantly from the darkness of sin into the light of divine forgiveness and liberation. (Col.1:13). The passion of the Lord is nothing compared to the redemption it will produce at the dawn of Easter.
Another important lesson today is the reverse reaction of the crowd towards our Lord. The crowd that shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David” at the triumphant entry would be the same crowd that would say “crucify him” during the trial and judgment at Gabbatha. This reverse action is representative of our relationship with God. We often agree to walk with the Lord at one point and another point we deny him and even “crucify him” by our sins and disobedience.
With the event of today, we have entered the week of passion. The Lord having entered triumphantly into Jerusalem is now carrying the burden of our souls to the Cross of Calvary where we shall have our liberation by his death and resurrection.
May we continue the procession from the entry into Jerusalem to the entry into his passion death and resurrection. May we not repeat the actions of Peter who denied his master (John 18:15-27). May we not repeat the actions of Judas who betrayed the Lord (Luke 22:48). May we not repeat condemning actions of Pilate and the authorities (John 18:28-40). And may we not like most the disciples, abandon the Lord during his Passion (Mark 14:50). May we rather like the Blessed Virgin Mary and few others stay close to him at the foot of the Cross at his death hour (John 19: 25-26) so that we can also rise with him.
I wish you a passionate Palm Sunday.