READINGS: Isaiah 50:4-7/ Philippians 2: 6-11/ Mark 14:1-15:47
Palm Sunday

According to the Gospel of St. John, people ‘took branches of palm trees and went out to meet [Jesus], crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord…”’ (John 12:13). Thus, over the centuries, Christians wave palm branches during the celebration of Palm Sunday. While we may wave our national flag when our national (football) team wins a championship, the Jews of the biblical times waved palm branches to celebrate their victories. For example, around 170BC, the Maccabees led some fellow Jews to defeat the Greeks who had earlier taken over Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple. On the occasion of the purification of the Temple and the celebration of the victory, the Jews sang songs of praise to God while waving palm and other branches (see 2 Macc. 10:7).

Thus, as Jesus entered Jerusalem on that fateful day, the jubilant crowd was celebrating the victories of their Hero! They were celebrating the victories of Jesus over evil:

  • His victory over sickness (the many times he healed the sick, lame, blind, etc.)
  • His victory over evil possessions
  • His victory over hunger (e.g., He fed over 5,000 people with 5 loaves)
  • His victory in raising the dead (the most recent then being the raising of Lazarus: John 11)
  • Etc.

Beloved, as the crowd celebrated the victories of Jesus, they did not however know that they were welcoming Him to the Jerusalem ‘stadium’ for the greatest of all His victories – namely, His victory over sin, death and Satan (the author of these evils). Today, though, we know and believe in the victory of our Lord Jesus over sin, death and Satan!

Furthermore, Rev. 7:9-12 informs us that as the saints in heaven, with palm branches in their hands, praised God and Christ, the Lamb of God, the angels responded by prostrating before the heavenly throne and worshipping with the words: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honour and power and might, be to our God forever and ever, amen!’ Similarly, we could say that as the crowds waved the palm branches in Jerusalem, the angels, who had the fore-knowledge that it was the celebration of Jesus’ anticipated victory over Satan, were prostrating and worshipping in heaven!

Usually, a victorious crowd has its victory song. No wonder then that the crowd in Jerusalem chanted in loud voices: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ (Mark 11:9-10). The ‘Hosanna’ in the victory song means ‘save us!’ or ‘salvation’. The saints in heaven with palm branches also sang a similar victory song: ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ (Rev. 7:10). Therefore, let us join the saints to sing: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! … Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb of God!’

Beloved, since the victory of Jesus for our salvation is an everlasting victory, let us always wave our victory flag. That is, let us wave, in the Church and outside the Church, our PALM branches:

  • P – Prayer
  • – Adoration (worship God)
  • L – Lifestyle (pleasing to God)
  • M – Mercy (deeds of mercy and forgiveness; for Jesus says that it is mercy that God desires: Matt. 9:13).

And, anytime we wave our palm branches of prayer, adoration, good lifestyle, and deeds of mercy, may the angels respond with their worship in heaven! Amen!

Finally, may we one day be part of the heavenly saints with palm branches and witness ‘live’ the angels prostrating before the throne of God and of the Lamb of God! Amen!

By Most Rev. John Kobina Louis

Bishop John Kobina Louis

Most Rev. John Kobina Louis is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana. More about him here.

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Catholic Homilies and Sermons for the Liturgical Year by Most Rev. John Kobina Louis, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana.

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