GOSPEL READING for Palm Sunday

Listen to the Gospel Reading Matthew 21: 1 – 1


REFLECTION for Palm Sunday 2020

Listen to Fr Michael’s Gospel reflection



Previous Weeks Readings and Reflections

If you have children you will probably know what it is to live in expectation – to make plans for their future, for schools, colleges, jobs, and if you are bold enough the kind of person they might marry. And if you haven’t planned so precisely, perhaps you’ve dared to hope; to hope that they will turn out to be this kind of person rather than that, that they will have the ability to see sense, to do the right thing, find somebody nice, settle down. Yet, whether or not you have children, we all know what it is to live in expectation; to make plans, to have hopes for ourselves and others.

In this, you and I are no different to the crowds who gathered to welcome Christ into the city. They had plans for Christ and themselves, they had hopes, they had a vision. This was their messiah, the redeemer who would liberate them from want and oppression. Yet in much the same way as children, friends and providence have other plans, plans that do not coincide with ours, the crowds’ expectations for Christ were somewhat removed from his own. At table and in the garden Jesus’ vision was fixed firmly and squarely on the suffering he was to undergo – it took in the betrayal, by Judas and Peter, it took in the offering of his body and blood, it took in the agony of the Cross – and still Christ marched on ‘a face set like flint’ ready to do his Father’s will.

With the gift of hindsight one could look on the crowd’s misreading of the situation with a certain amount of disdain. They had after all got it all wrong and the future they had mapped out for this King as well as themselves came to nothing. Yet here we must be very careful, we must remember that we too are just as capable of imprisoning Christ within our own expectations, and just as capable of feeling let down and disappointed when he refuses to play ball.

In following Christ the only thing we can expect is to have our expectations challenged, confounded or ripped apart. A King on a donkey, not a chariot or throne; a ruler without power. That is the Christ who entered Jerusalem and who subjected himself to the Cross and Suffering. That is the Christ, a Christ full of contradictions who cannot be packaged and pinned down, that we must enthrone in our lives and in our hearts. Our tragedy and downfall is that we want our Christ to be predictable, we want to label him, to put him into a category just as Pilate tried to as he interrogated him about being a king.

Christ’s pressing on resolutely, the way in which he orchestrates the beginning of this whole drama, commanding his disciples to get up, his self-sacrifice is not, I suspect, a journey that you and I would run to make. Yet it seems to me that if we are prepared to have our expectations confounded, if we are prepared to let Christ be Christ and God be God, then we can enter into the mystery that is our salvation; we can process, we can go on, just as Christ processed into Jerusalem, with determination, a face set like flint, in the well founded hope that God not man, with all his plans and expectations, will deliver.

This Palm Sunday, more than any other, the sense of not being in control, not being able to plan, or to live our lives as we would wish to; that sense of being in the hands of something or someone else is altogether palpable. Just as Christ was given over by Judas, by the Chief Priests and elders, by Pilate, by the crowd, there is a sense of our being ‘given over’. Here, the invitation is to travel as Christ travelled, in determination and trust. That if we are to be ‘given over’ to anything, it is first and foremost to the Father. Father into your hands I commit my Spirit; my dreams and expectations., my hopes and my fears, all that has been, all that is and all that will be.

Fr Michael O’Boy