A reflection for Palm Sunday

Bishop John Stowe reflects on the readings for April 2, 2023.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year A):

Matthew 21:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalms 22:8 – 9, 17 – 18, 19 – 20, 23 – 24
Philippians 2:6-11
Matthew 26:14—27:66

Reflection: The veil of the sanctuary is torn

On the day that we commemorate Jesus’ solemn entry into Jerusalem we also read in the gospel of Jesus’ passion and death. It is quite a contrast as we move from the hosannas and palm waving that accompanied Jesus’ entry as messiah and Son of David into David’s city—and then crowds in the same city are shouting “Crucify him” after choosing to set the murderer Barabbas free.

You would think that a carpenter riding a donkey, and a group of fishermen leading a pretty motley procession through the busy capital city, wouldn’t make much of an impact, but it seems that both the religious and Roman leaders were threatened and hastened to arrange a means of disposing of Jesus. And one of Jesus’ own crew was willing to provide the opportunity.

Palm Sunday is also our great entrance into Holy Week, the week when we cherish the memory of Jesus, who as described in the gospel of John, loved us to the extreme. We hear words from the prophet Isaiah that more closely resemble the messianic mission of Jesus than the storied memory of King David, whose glory is in the minds and hearts of the crowds shouting “hosanna.” Isaiah speaks of a servant who learns by suffering, who gives his back to those who beat him and his cheeks to those who pluck his beard.  It is through these experiences that he has something to say to the weary—“a word that will rouse them.”


He is in solidarity with all the innocent who have been unfairly accused, with prisoners of conscience in all times and places, with those facing the death sentence of a terminal illness, with those whose dignity has been stripped and those who are crowned with the thorns of ridicule and exclusion and those forced to drink the bitter gall of the self-righteous. He is with the crucified in every time and place.

Jesus has a word to rouse them: From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.'” It is a word powerful enough to cause the high priest to tear his robe. Only a messiah who can feel in his bones the cry “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me” can convincingly say “let it be fulfilled”—that is, let God’s plan work.

In our time, we don’t have much tolerance for suffering or much patience for those who are suffering. We are addicted to the quick fix and would rather avert our eyes from the pain of others than enter into it in solidarity. Not so our savior, who bore our infirmities. And it is this suffering servant savior who reveals the almighty one most perfectly. Near to all who cry out, shining the sun and raining the rain on good and bad alike, eager to gather us in as a hen gathers her chicks.

“And behold the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.” The curtain meant to separate mere mortals from the divine, the veil meant to keep out the unworthy is torn, the chasm between humanity and divinity is closed. Jesus’ suffering body reveals God’s love most perfectly.

About the author

Bishop John Stowe, O.F.M.

Bishop John Stowe, O.F.M. Conv. is the third bishop of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky.

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