THEME: WAVE YOUR SPIRITUAL PALM BRANCHES
READINGS: Isaiah 50:4-7/ Phil. 2: 6-11/ Matthew 26:14-27:66.
Due to the measures put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease, there are no public celebrations of Palm Sunday in many parts of the world. In the absence of a public celebration, some people have suggested some innovative ways of marking this special Christian feast. For instance, someone has suggested that we display palm branches on the windows of our houses. Others too have decided to share on social media pictures of certain designs of palm branches.
In the light of the above, I wish to suggest a way by which we can spiritually celebrate Palm Sunday wherever we may find ourselves. Significant to the celebration of Palm Sunday is to re-enact or model what the crowd of Jews did when Jesus was triumphantly entering Jerusalem. 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 public celebration of Palm Sunday. Now, in the absence of a public celebration, I wish to suggest a way by which we can wave our spiritual palm branches in our homes, hospitals, chapels or wherever we may find ourselves.
The waving of palm branches among the Jews could be likened to the waving of our national flags to celebrate the victory of our national (football) team. And so, as Jesus entered Jerusalem on that faithful day – which we now call PALM Sunday – the jubilant crowd was celebrating the victories of Jesus, their HERO! They were celebrating the victories of Jesus over evil:
- His victory over sickness (the many times He healed the sick, lame, blind…),
- His victory over evil possessions,
- His victory over hunger (e.g. feeding over 5,000 people with 5 loaves),
- His victory in raising the dead (the most recent of which was the raising of Lazarus).
Beloved, with the benefit of hindsight, we know that these are not the only victories of Jesus; for we have experienced His victories in our own lives. Moreover, we know His greatest victory – He conquered death by His glorious resurrection. And by this victory, we have access to eternal life!
We, therefore, need to celebrate the victories of Jesus even though we may not be able to do so publicly. We can wave our spiritual palm branches to celebrate the victories of our Lord. A vision of heaven which St. John had and which is recorded in the Book of Revelation attests to the fact that we can celebrate the victories of Jesus with spiritual palm branches: ‘I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb [of God]!”’ (Rev. 7:9-10; NRSV).
In the vision, the saints in heaven celebrated the victories of Jesus with palm branches in their hands. Their palm branches were, however, not physical branches but spiritual ones. There are different types of spiritual palm branches. Today, this is the type of spiritual PALM branch, I am recommending for use:
- P – Prayer
- A – Adoration (worship God)
- L – Lifestyle (good lifestyle)
- M – Mercy (deeds of mercy and forgiveness; for Jesus says, it is mercy that God desires, Matt. 9:13).
Beloved, we know that sometimes when a (football) team wins a championship, the victory celebration can go on for days or even weeks, though the victory title/trophy may be ascribed to the team for only one year. If this is the case, then, we have to celebrate the victories of Jesus everyday, since especially His victory over death is an everlasting victory.
Beloved, in the above-mentioned vision of St. John, when the saints celebrated the victories of Jesus with singing and palm branches, the angels of God prostrated in worship, singing:
‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen’ (Rev. 7:12).
Therefore, beloved, anytime we wave our spiritual 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 host of heavenly saints with spiritual PALM branches and witness “LIVE” the angels prostrating before the throne of God and of the Lamb of God, and singing in praise of God! Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis