22 March 2024

St Óscar Romero's 44th anniversary. Sunday Reflections, Palm Sunday, Year B

Entry into Jerusalem (scene 1)
Duccio di Buoninsegna [Web Gallery of Art]

And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! (Mark 11:9).

Palm Sunday, Year B

The Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem

Mark 11:1-10. (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”


John 12:12-16. (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

“Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
    sitting on a donkey's colt!”

His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

Readings for Mass

Readings(Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The Adoration of the Name of Jesus

At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11; Second Reading).

This reflection is a slightly edited version of what I posted in 2012. This Sunday is the 44th anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Romero who was canonised on 14 October 2018 by Pope Francis. His feast day is 24 March.

There’s an expression in Irish, An té atá thuas óltar deoch air; an té atá thíos buailtear cos air (‘The one who succeeds is toasted; the one who fails is kicked’). On Palm Sunday Jesus was joyfully welcomed with people shouting ‘Hosanna!’ Five days later the mob that surely included at least some who had cried out ‘Hosanna!’ was shouting ‘Crucify him!’

The last century saw Hitler's ‘The Thousand Year Reich’ end in ruins after only twelve years, the overthrowing of many dictators, powerful politicians ending up in jail or on the gallows, statues that some of them had built in their own honour toppled from their pedestals.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) in A Christmas Carol describes the reaction of a young woman when her husband comes home with news of the debt they owed.

He sat down to the dinner that had been hoarding for him by the fire; and when she asked him faintly what news (which was not until after a long silence), he appeared embarrassed how to answer.
'Is it good,' she said, 'or bad?' – to help him.
'Bad', he answered.
'We are quite ruined?'
'No. There is hope yet, Caroline.'
'If  he relents,' she said, amazed, 'there is! Nothing is past hope, if such a miracle has happened.'
'He is past relenting,' said her husband. 'He is dead.'
She was a mild and patient creature if her face spoke truth; but she was thankful in her soul to hear it, and she said so, with clasped hands. She prayed forgiveness the next moment, and was sorry; but the first was the emotion of her heart.

This took place after Scrooge, in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come had asked the Ghost, who had been showing him scenes around the death of someone unloved whom Scrooge had not yet recognized as himself, If there is any one person in the town, who feels emotion caused by this man’s death, show that person to me, Spirit, I beseech you!

The instinctive emotion was relief, as it always is, at least for a while, when a tyrant is overthrown. I remember my own feelings of relief and joy when dictator Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines was overthrown in February 1986.

The story of the conversion of Scrooge is set at Christmastime but what underlies it is what we commemorate and celebrate during the coming week, the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, God who became Man. Jesus could see clearly through the adulation offered him on Palm Sunday. We’ve no reason to believe that the welcome the people gave him was insincere or that Jesus didn’t accept it. But, for some at least, the welcome they gave Jesus was surely shallow. The parable of the seeds was reflected in the responses showed during the coming week by those who welcomed him.

Overthrown or deceased tyrants are not usually remembered for being loving. Some children are unfortunate enough to have a parent who is tyrannical. Some have been affected for life by a teacher who has terrorized his students. Dickens’s novels provide us with many such characters, reflective of people in real life. They are full of children who have been abused in different ways. In recent years we have become all too familiar with a reality that many of us could never have imagined – the abuse of children by priests and religious. There is a growing awareness of the much wider reality of abuse of children in families.

But the death of Jesus led initially to great sorrow and remorse, a loss of hope, until the reality of his Resurrection became apparent to his closest followers. Then they began to see him and understand his mission in a new way. Then they began to see how he had always been on the side of the outsider – the blind, the lame, the deaf, the leper, the child. Even the animal he chose to ride on into Jerusalem is described by GK Chesterton in the poem below as The devil’s walking parody / On all four-footed things. But the humble donkey also had his hour.

When Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, on 23 February 1977 the governing authorities welcomed this. They gave him a sort of Palm Sunday welcome as someone they perceived to be pious and compliant. He was indeed a deeply pious person, in the full sense of one devoted to the will of God the Father, and this was the foundation on which the dramatic last years of his life were based. On 24 March 1980 agents of the state shot Archbishop Romero dead while he was celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel (photo below). His 'Holy Week' had lasted just over three years.

St Óscar Romero assassinated while celebrating Mass, 24 March 1980

In his final homily, just before he was murdered, Archbishop Romero concluded with these words, May this Body immolated and this blood sacrificed for Mankind nourish us also, that we may give our body and blood over to suffering and pain, like Christ – not for Self, but to give harvests of peace and justice to our people.

A few days earlier Archbishop Romero had said to a journalist, I need to say that as a Christian I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the people of El Salvador . . . If they manage to carry out their threats, as of now, I offer my blood for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador. If God accepts the sacrifice of my life, then may my blood be the seed of liberty and the sign that hope will soon become a reality. May my death, if it is accepted by God, be for the liberation of my people, as a witness of hope in what is to come. You can tell them that if they succeed in killing me, I pardon and bless those who do it. A bishop may die, but the Church of God, which is in the people, will never die.

In 1994 St John Paul II wrote in Tertio AdvenienteAt the end of the second millennium, the Church has once again become a Church of martyrs . . . It is a testimony that must not be forgotten. Among the Catholic martyrs of the new millennium are my close friend and Columban colleague Fr Rufus Halley, shot dead on 28 August 2001 having spent 20 years trying to be a bridge between Christians and Muslims in Mindanao, Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni, shot dead in Iraq after celebrating Mass on Pentecost Sunday 2007 and Pakistani politician Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, murdered just after visiting his mother on 2 March 2011.

Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter bring hope into our lives. We can see our often shallow enthusiasm for Jesus echoed in the crowds greeting him on Palm Sunday. We can see our frequent betrayals of him in small matters and big as we listen to the Passion, this year that of St Mark, on Palm Sunday and again to St John’s version on Good Friday. But the reality that Jesus, God who became Man, the Son of God the Father, took on all of this so that we might have life to the full. Óscar Romero, Rufus Halley, Ragheed Ganni and Shahbaz Bhatti all walked with Jesus on Palm Sunday, walked with him to Calvary on Good Friday and now share in the joy of his Resurrection, bringing hope to the rest of us, a hope rooted in their faith in Jesus the Risen Lord.

Traditional Latin Mass

Palm Sunday

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 03-24-2024 if necessary).

The Blessing of Palms

Gospel: Matthew 21:1-9

The Mass

Epistle: Philippians 2:5-11. Gospel: Matthew 26:36-27:66. 

Christ Carrying the Cross

1 comment:

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Father Seán,
Palm Sunday is like a premature celebration... but human kind easily forgets!
May all those that got murdered because of their faith be united with God in heaven.