PALM SUNDAY 2013 – March 24, 2013, Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
PALM SUNDAY 2013
March 24, 2013
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
When World War II ended in Europe on May 8, 1945, celebrations erupted in all the cities across the United States. A victory parade through Manhattan in New York was watched by more than two million people. The 82second Airborne Division was selected to exemplify the millions who served in the armed forces of the United States during this conflict. While these troops and thousands of civil dignitaries passed in the street past the business district, every widow in the towering skyscrapers opened; office workers threw out the ticker tape paper that all offices used at the time. It hailed the service men in the parade.
An excited victory parade, something like the New York parade, occurred on the first Palm Sunday, in Jerusalem.
“Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethpage on the Mount of Olives.” The disciples found an ass tethered, and a colt with her. The disciples untied the animals and brought them to Jesus. The disciples brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and [Jesus] sat upon the ass. The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding [Jesus] and those following kept crying out and saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.’ And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds replied, ‘This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.’” (Matthew 21:9-11)
The palm tree was considered in Biblical times as a princely tree and was used as a symbol of victory and well-being. Among both the Romans and the Jews it was carried in joyful or triumphant processions. In 293 B.C. victorious Roman soldiers bore palm branches when parading in Rome; and the palm was given as a victory emblem at public games. Of earlier date was its usage among the Israelites; people carried palm branches during the Feast of Tabernacles (Lv 23:40; Neh 8:15); and it was part of the bouquet offered on festive occasions as a sign of homage or to celebrate a victory (1 Mc 13:37; Jn 12:13).
After Christ’s death and resurrection, the palm was connected with Martyrdom (Apoc &:9). The palm was used to decorate grave-markers and tombs in the catacombs as a sign of the triumphal death of the martyr.
These blessed palms remind us of Jesus victory ride into Jerusalem. Crowds offered him a hero’s welcome, celebrating the Messiah, the descendent of King David. By the end of that same week, the Scribes and Pharisees—seeing Jesus as threatening their leadership—brought a different crowd to shout for His crucifixion.
Today, you and I wave the palm in the triumphant manner of success, of the arrival of the kingdom of God within our family and within ourselves. This palm signifies the triumph of a victory of Jesus, and a triumph of our victory for Godliness in our daily life. Hosanna, hosanna in the highest. Amen.