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Saturday, 01 April 2023 18:44

Palm Sunday - 2023

Fr Michael Hardie SVD 150With the arrival of Palm Sunday our Lenten journey is almost over. Christ’s persecution and crucifixion is still ahead of us, but the promise of his resurrection at Easter is within our sight. Palm Sunday signifies not only Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, it also denotes the transition from the Days of Lent to the Days in Jerusalem. The Lenten journey has richly prepared us for Christ’s arrival on a common animal of burden, rather than a majestic equine steed befitting kingship, in fulfillment of the words of the prophet Zechariah, picked up by Matthew in his Gospel reading for the Palm Sunday entrance, that “He shall come to you, humble and mounted on an ass.” The earthy words of the prophet make us ready in mind and spirit to grasp the wonder of the unfolding Easter mysteries.

cross with purple sash and palms on white woodWhat have we gained from our time of Lent? Those of you who are of enough years to have known Abraham (John 8:57) ! will remember how Lent was celebrated – or endured – before the reforms of Vatican II. Rigorous fasting, doleful looks, giving up sweets or sugar characterised the Catholic observance. Such petty pieties were more concerned with subjugating the body and mortifying the senses, than with accompanying Christ and the disciples through understanding the true reasons for the season. Giving up small things induced feelings of self-satisfaction, but they didn’t build up the Christian community. More modern Lenten practices have looked towards doing something positive, like reaching out to a neighbour or healing a neglected relationship – in other words, doing something positive for the wider world. Contributing to Caritas Australia’s ‘Project Compassion’ is an example of an outreach which builds up community and heals the wounds of our society – homelessness, hunger, and hopelessness.

Pope Francis, in his homily on Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent 2023, picked up the theme of adopting a more universal Christian focus when he said, “Lent is a time to let go of the frivolous and to choose truth and love.” Perhaps he was thinking of the three final Sundays of Lent, and the three Gospels chosen for those three Sundays – the Woman at the Well, the Man born Blind, and the Raising of Lazarus. Jesus crossed over social divides when he engaged with the Samaritan woman; challenged social divisions when he healed the man born blind; restored love and relationships in the raising of Lazarus. The point about the symbolism of these actions in the liturgical season of Lent is clear – Lent is for restoring, for healing and for raising to new life, and is a sign of the Resurrection to come when all will be made new.

So, as we welcome Palm Sunday, let us continue to practise the lessons of Lent, rather than saying (as we used to) “Thank heavens that’s over!” Pope Francis tells us that the ashes of Wednesday not only remind us of our mortality, they also invite us to rebuild our relationships with one another and to rediscover our companions along the journey of each day, through sincere encounter and listening to each other. In faith, he says, God’s spirit will be with us until all our journeys are done.


Last modified on Thursday, 06 April 2023 12:31

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In the spirit of reconciliation, the Society of the Divine Word, Australia Province, acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, sky, and community.

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