From the Pastor – April 5, 2020

daily short prayersOn the next day, when the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel.”  (John 12:12-13)

A common custom in many lands of the ancient Middle East was to cover in some way the path of someone thought worthy of the highest honor.  In 2 Kings 9:13 Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, was treated to this honor.  Each of the four Gospels report that the people of Jerusalem gave Jesus the honor of walking on a covered path.  However, in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) we hear that the people lay their garments and cut branches to place on the street.  Only the Gospel of John specifically mentions palms.

So, what is the significance of the palm?  The palm branch was a symbol of triumph and of victory in Jewish tradition, and is treated as such in other parts of the Bible (e.g. Leviticus 23:40 and Revelation 7:9). Based on this significance, the scene of the crowd greeting Jesus by waving palms and carpeting his path has given the celebration of Palm Sunday its name.  It shows the freedom desired by the Jews, and their desperation for a savior.  In fact, they were welcoming their Messiah, whom they expected to be a great king who would free them from the oppression of foreign rulers.  The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem included chants from Psalm 118 and 148:1. The Hebrew hoshiiah na’ (I beseech you, save now) was changed in Greek to hosanna, which became a famous Christian term, and had a huge Messianic significance.

During the time that we are suffering because of the global pandemic of COVID19, we are also looking for something or someone to save us.  We might need someone to save us medically if we get the virus.  We might need someone to save us because we have lost our jobs or have been affected financially.  We might need someone to save us because we are separated from our families or friends or our church.

The palm is a symbol of victory for us as Christians.  Since we recognize that Jesus is the Messiah (a word which we normally use in the Greek translation – “Christ”), we recognize that He has already achieved a victory for us.  But the victory is not over earthly rulers.  It’s not a victory over a disease and our current quarantine.  It’s much bigger.  It’s victory over Satan.  It’s a victory over sin.  And it’s a victory over death.  It’s a victory that gives us Eternal Life.  Hosanna!

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty