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This morning’s Gospel reading is Luke 19:28–40:

Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem. As he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples. He said, “Go into the village opposite you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. And if anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you will answer, ‘The Master has need of it.’” So those who had been sent went off and found everything just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying this colt?” They answered, “The Master has need of it.” So they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount.

As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”

“My God, my God, o why have you abandoned me?”

Jesus sent up this lament from Psalm 22 while on the cross, which serves as our responsorial psalm for today, but the Lord had not abandoned His Son. Psalm 22 offers a powerful testament to faith in the depth of suffering, in which the psalmist cries out to God in the throes of misery and persecution. As the psalm continues, it becomes a song of praise to the Lord and His goodness, as well as a commitment to Him. In verse 25, as Jesus would have testified from the cross, comes this pledge: “From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.”

God had not abandoned Jesus, but rather all of Jerusalem did. They rejected Jesus just as passionately as they had embraced Him a few days earlier, as we read in our processional passage from Luke. By extension, so did we all — and so we do every time we embrace sin and worldliness over His saving sacrifice on the cross.

Why was this sacrifice even necessary? It’s necessary for our sins, but also because of the blood covenant between Abraham and the Lord. In Genesis 15, the Lord tells Abraham to provide a series of animal sacrifices, cut in half with laid out in two rows, with a path through the center of them. At the time, this was the form for a blood oath between conflicting tribes of the region; both leaders would pass through the center of the sacrifices to guarantee terms of the pact. If a member of a tribe violated the oath, that tribe’s leader would be bound to put his own tribe member to death. (Jeremiah 34:18-20 also describes the deadly consequences of breaking this form of a blood covenant.)

However, as we read in Genesis, only the Lord passes between the animals. Abraham sees this in a vision but does not participate in it, having been put into a deep sleep and overcome by a dreadful darkness that rendered him immobile. The only party with blood on Him is the Lord, who will pay the price for any violation of the covenant by either party by the terms of this blood oath. The constant sin of Abraham’s descendants call for blood, and God must provide it in order to sustain the covenant.

Far from having abandoned Jesus, the Lord has worked through Jesus to rescue all of us. Jesus willingly embraced his Father’s will to achieve this atonement, once and for all who choose to embrace the sacrifice in order to heal the breach in the covenant He forged with Abraham. It is the closure for a fallen world, offered once in space and time but effective for all time in eternity.

But why send His Son, the firstborn, to rescue the other children of God? Jesus was First, begotten and not made, and consubstantial with the Father. Jesus is the Word through which all things — including man — were made. By our conventions, the firstborn has primacy in the inheritance. The usurpation of the younger son that eventually works to God’s purpose is a theme we see often in scripture, although we may not recognize it.

In fact, it starts almost immediately in Genesis. In light of Jesus’ eternal existence. Adam is the second-born child of God and is immediately placed in an earthly paradise, one with God. Adam sins and rejects God, who loves him nonetheless and tries to guide Adam even outside of Eden. Adam’s sons Cain and Abel end up in murderous conflict because the first-born Cain grows jealous that Abel is favored by God. Esau and Jacob end up in conflict because the slightly younger twin Jacob usurps Esau’s birthright, and yet Jacob becomes Israel, the patriarch of the nation Moses would free centuries later. This theme even appears in the parables of Jesus, especially in the parable of the prodigal son, in which the anger and closed-hearted reaction of the older brother is at least as notable as the redemption of the younger son.

This theme attests to the love the Lord has for us in His creation, and perhaps reflects the rebellion of the angels when His plan was made clear. This rebellion parallels the parable of the prodigal son, and perhaps gets reflected in the stories of Adam, Cain, and Esau as well. God has a specific plan for men and women that shows favor upon us to the point where some of our older siblings in spirit grew jealous. What might those plans be? We do not know except that we will live in His glory to get there.

And this is what makes our constant betrayals even more inexplicable and saddening. Jesus tells another parable too about the tenants murdering the landlord’s son rather than abide by the terms of the agreement. This almost exactly foreshadows Jesus’ Passion, starting with his entry into Jerusalem that we commemorate on Palm Sunday. The tenants greet the eldest son with pomp and circumstance, but they have their own agendas — and when the Son requires them to abide by the covenant, they find it easier to kill him rather than comply.

Palm Sunday holds that up as a mirror to us all as to how we greet the Lord in our own hearts. Do we start off by laying down palms and shouting hosannas, only to close them up and vituperate Christ when His word is too challenging for us? Do we take this opportunity to recall the Abrahamic covenant, or do we shrug it off and put ourselves outside of its bounds? Did we experience some suffering and just assumed that God had abandoned us, and therefore the covenant was broken? Jesus’ testimony from the cross tells us otherwise — both in the psalm He chose to sing as He died, and from His sacrifice in and of itself.

Palm Sunday offers us a do-over — a way to truly welcome the Lord to His throne in our hearts. This time, let us keep Him there, now and forever.

The front-page image is a detail from “Entry of Christ into Jerusalem” by Pietro Lorenzetti, c. 1320. On display at the Lower Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, Italy. Via Wikimedia Commons.

“Sunday Reflection” is a regular feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection represents only my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion. Previous Sunday Reflections from the main page can be found here.  

Source: This post first appeared on HotAir

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