The Bishops Homily – Palm Sunday 2018

Palm Sunday
Cycle B | 25/03/18
Is. 50: 4-7
Phil. 2: 6-11
Mk. 11: 1-10/14:1-15:47

INTRODUCTION: As we begin Holy Week on this Palm Sunday, we see numerous stirring examples of how in Mark’s version of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophesies.

From the direction he enters Jerusalem to his mode of transport in going around the City, Jesus comes out clearly as the one who is to reclaim the new Jerusalem and its Temple and prove to the world that he is indeed the Son of God, chosen to save us through his revolutionary and non-violent model of warfare of love and forgiveness.

(1) Mark tells us Jesus approached the holy City of Jerusalem from the East, I.e. The Mount of Olives. Ez.10 describes by stages how the glory of the Lord of Israel left the threshold of the Temple and stood at the entrance of the Eastern Gate of the Lord’s house on the mountain which is to the East of the City.

The Temple was for the Jews the dwelling place of Jahweh. For the glory of Jahweh to have left the Temple was a shocking indictment on the corruption of the Temple. However the same Prophet foretold in Ez. 43 the return of the glory of the God of Israel from the same direction where it left and then the Temple will be rebuilt and reconstituted. Now Jesus arrives and for the people to understand him, the Jews continually return to these ancient texts that refer to him.

Now when he entered Jerusalem, he goes straight to the Temple. There he cleanses the Temple and proclaims: “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will build it up” or other similar proclamation as: “Behold, you have here one greater than the Temple.” Jesus is proclaiming that he is the true dwelling place of Jahweh, greater than the holy temple in Jerusalem. Now we understand what is happening! Palm Sunday is the return of the Shekinah, the glory of Jahweh, in Israel.

(2) Zech. 9:9: “Rejoice heartily, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he. Meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” What is behind this text? From II Sam. 5-6:14 we know that King David took possession of the City of Jerusalem and made it the Capital of Israel and brought the Ark of the Covenant to the City dancing with abandon during a festive parade as he entered the City. David’s son, Solomon, built the Temple.

For that brief shining moment during David and Solomon Israel was ruled by good Kings. But the Kings that followed them fell into corruption just as the Temple did also. So the Israelites began to dream and long for the return of the true King like David come alive who will retake the City and defeat all his enemies and the reign of this King would be eternal,

(3) Another conviction grew in the consciousness of Israel that Jahweh himself will rule as King to Israel. We have many texts expressing this idea in Isaiah, Malachi, and in Psalm 145. Jahweh will indeed rule Israel through the Son of David, not as a conquering hero riding on an Arabian chariot but as a humble figure riding on a donkey. Could anyone have missed that this was exactly what was happening on that first Palm Sunday?

CONCLUSION: Jesus speaking in the name of God enters the Holy City as a Son of David who is also the Lord himself claiming dominion in his Capital City. He was the glory of Jahweh returning as King to deal definitively with the enemies of the Nations. As Holy Week unfolds, we see how this King fights not with the armies of this world but with the non-violent weapons of love and forgiveness. That is why Pilate was right placing a placard at the head of the Cross declaring this is the true King of the Jews and of the world.

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches