My dearly beloved in Our Lord,
Holy Church wants to put us into the right dispositions for the Great Week, the Holy Week. Therefore she blesses the palms in a very solemn way, similar to a Mass celebration: Anthiphon, collect, epistle, responsorium, Gospel, preface, Sanctus and “consecration“ of the palms. The blessed branches are then distributed in order that they may be carried by the priest and the congregation in a solemn procession, and then be kept as a sacramental in the Christian homes.
The proper Mass of Palm Sunday speaks to us with the words of those ancient prayers, the Psalms of the King and Prophet David. They have all been prayed by Christ himself, and some of them when he was suffering on the Cross. There is particularly Psalm 21 which we read in the Introit and in the long Tract. We all know its 2nd verse which Christ spoke on the Cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
The Gradual quotes from Psalm 72 which is a poignant opposition of the sinners and of the just soul. The sinners seem to lead a peaceful and good life, sometimes to their very earthly end. Only if we consider the very different outcome of a virtuous or sinful life after the day of judgment, can we find and keep our peace of soul in the sight of such temporary injustice.
The Offertory antiphon from Psalm 68 is partly identical with the one of the feast of the Sacred Heart: “Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak; I looked for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, and I found none. Rather they put gall in My food and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.“ (v. 21-22) Practically no one comforted Our Lord in his sacred Passion – only his holy Mother was true to him all way long, and she suffered all his pains in her immaculate and sorrowful heart, as the prophet Simeon had foretold her at the Purification.
The Communion antiphon at last quotes Christ‘s own words which he prayed in the garden of Gethsemani, the garden of olives: “Father, if this cup cannot pass away, unless I drink it, Your will be done.“ (Mt 26,42) What a short phrase, and what riches of doctrine for us Christians! These words prove that Our Lord had two wills, the divine and a human will, and that he submitted his human will totally to the divine will, to the plan of Redemption, even at the price of the greatest suffering. What an example of obedience, which Holy Church praises so often during these days: “Christus factus est pro nobis obediens… Christ became obedient for us unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also exalted Him and hath given Him a Name which is above all names.“ (today‘s Epistle, Phil 2,8-9) What a lesson for all our prayers: they must be done in submission of our will and fate to the holy will of God: “fiat voluntas tua – thy will be done“, as Our Lord prays here with the very words he teaches us in the “Our Father“.
Therefore the Collect of the Mass makes us to ask: “Mercifully grant that we may be found worthy of the lesson of His endurance and the fellowship of His resurrection“. Only if we submit our entire mind and will to God‘s teaching and commands will we be saved!
In the reading of Our Lord‘s Passion according to St Matthew – the other three Evangelist follow on Tuesday, Wednesday and Good Friday – we witness the abyss that opens up between human frailty and wickedness, and the goodness and patience of the innocent lamb led to be slaughtered.
The last sentence of the Gospel – the last part of the Passion – says that “the chief priests and the Pharisees… make the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone and setting guards“. Obstinacy in sin acts like a seal which testifies and makes sure of the evil acts committed. Sin has its own terrible logic! This logic can only be broken by the sinner “giving in“ to God‘s call to repent. But alas, many a sinner despises such a call, often repeated by God, and decides to “make sure“ that his soul is sealed and locked, impenetrable for God‘s grace.
“A contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.“ (Ps 50,19) In order to become worthy of the immense gifts that God wants to bestow upon our souls during the time of Holy Week, let us “break” our hearts through true contrition; let us pray with fervor, humility and perseverance. Let our soul not be locked and sealed to God’s grace, but wide open – just as Our Lord’s Sacred Heart was opened right after his death in order to show that it will be the eternal refuge for all souls of good will.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.