is the real meaning of Palm Sunday? What relevance does it
have to the church today?
Sunday traditionally has two focal points. One is the entrance
of Jesus into Jerusalem just days before his arrest, trial and
crucifixion. He was greeted with acclaim by residents, who placed
branches of palm trees in his path, a sign of respect for an
arriving messiah. Within a week, of course, the people of Jerusalem
were making a different cry: “Crucify him!”
other focal point is the reading of the Passion Gospel, the entire
story of Jesus' final hours, beginning with his torment in the
Garden of Gethsemane and concluding with his death on the cross
and the placing of his body in a tomb.
Thus the day usually is known as the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday.
many churches, the liturgy for that begins with an enactment
of the procession into Jerusalem, with palm branches waved by
worshipers. (Some of those branches will be saved until next
year and then burned for use as the ashes on Ash Wednesday.)
The Gospel reading for the day is the Passion Gospel (from Mark
this year), sometimes in a dramatic reading by several readers,
with the congregation taking the part of the Jerusalem mob.
consider this the most moving liturgy of the year. Its relevance
is both to tell the story of “Christ crucified,” as
Paul put it, without which the story of Easter has no meaning;
and to call attention to our complicity in turning against Jesus.