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What is Palm Sunday?

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church faithful during last year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.
The first Sunday of Holy Week is Palm Sunday, which remembers Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Falling on the sixth Sunday in Lent and the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday is celebrated in all major Christian churches—Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox.

The Holy Week is the final week in the season of Lent and the week leading up to Easter Sunday. During this week, Christians remember the important events of Christ's final days, his death and resurrection. Revisiting these events is more than a history lesson. It gives us a greater understanding about what Jesus did for us on the cross.

This year, Palm Sunday is being celebrated on Sunday March 25, 2018 (today). On this day, Jesus fulfills the prophecy from Zechariah when he says in Matthew 21:1-11.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away."

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

The palm branch represented goodness and victory and was symbolic of the final victory He would soon fulfill over death. The donkey symbolized peace, so those who chose to ride them showed that they came with peaceful intentions. Jesus even then reminded us that He is the Prince of Peace.

When the people shouted “Hosanna!” they were hailing Christ as King. That word actually means ‘save now,’ and though in their own minds they waited for an earthly king, God had a different way in mind of bringing true salvation to all who would trust in Him ( Luke 19:41-42).

In the midst of the praise of the moment, Jesus knew in His heart that it wouldn't be long that these same people would turn their backs on Him, betray Him, and crucify Him. His heart broke with the reality of how much they needed a Saviour.

In the simplest of terms, Palm Sunday is an opportunity to reflect upon the final week of Jesus' life. Jesus did not deny the image that the crowd expected -- the fulfillment of the hopes of Israel that He would be their earthly king, destroying the Roman government.

Instead, Jesus humbly entered Jerusalem to give His life on a cross, saving mankind from sin and death. One day, Jesus will return gloriously as a mighty warrior in battle (Revelation 19:11–16). Palm Sunday serves as a preparation of one’s heart for the agony of His Passion and the joy of His Resurrection. 

Today, many Palm Sunday traditions remain much the same as those celebrated in the tenth century. Some ceremonies begin with the blessing of the palms. Afterward, many people take the palms home and place them in houses, barns, and fields.

The palms blessed in the ceremony are burned at the end of the day and the ashes then preserved for the following year's Ash Wednesday celebration. 

The traditions of Palm Sunday serve as reminders of the life-changing events of Holy Week. Many parishes provide palms as part of Mass on this day.  The palms are typically weaved into crosses and other religious symbols.

Today’s procession is meant to be an image of something deeper, to reflect the fact that, together with Jesus, Christians are setting out on pilgrimage along the high road that leads to the living God.


In this Holy Week, may God direct our thoughts and attention towards what matters most, Jesus Christ our King... Let's choose to focus on worshipping our Lord, thanking Him for the gift of His sacrifice, celebrating the power of the Resurrection, and the new life found in Him alone.

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