THE celebration of Palm Sunday on March 28 is markedly different from the commemoration since this predominantly Christian nation of 110 million people received the Christian Cross in the 16th century.
Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holy Week and the final week of Lent in the Christian calendar, marks the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1–9), when palm fronds were placed in his path.
That, before his arrest on Holy Thursday and his crucifixion on Good Friday – this year falling on April 1 and 2.
With the coronavirus pandemic, which forced social distancing and other restrictions for the health of the majority, if not all, of the population, even Masses have been ordered suspended by the Vatican down to the archdioceses and parishes.
But people can still pray in the sanctity of their homes with the pandemic a couple of weeks now past its first year anniversary, with infections and deaths rising while the government is in a frenzy with its vaccine rollout this month.
In Metro Manila, now considered the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, and outlying towns, Masses will be celebrated by live-streaming or zoom.
Beyond the palm branches waved frenziedly by the faithful preceding the Mass to celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the sight of Jesus suggests, according to theologians, that Jesus entered Jerusalem as Savior and King.
The Bible says as Jesus rode a donkey into the town of Jerusalem a large crowd gathered and laid palm branches and their cloaks across the road, giving Jesus “royal treatment.”
The hundreds of people shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
According to theology scholars, there are five things that remind Christians that Jesus is Savior and King.
- God’s Word tells us the people cut palm branches and waved them in the air, laid them out on the ground before Jesus as He rode into the city. The palm branch represented goodness and victory and was symbolic of the final victory He would soon fulfill over death.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Cor. 15:55.
- Jesus chose to ride in on a donkey, which directly fulfilled Old Testament prophecy of Zec 9:9. In Biblical times, it was common for kings or important people to arrive by a procession riding on a donkey. The donkey symbolized peace, so those who chose to ride them showed that they came with peaceful intentions. Jesus even then reminded us that He is the Prince of Peace.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
- When the people shouted “Hosanna!” they were hailing Christ as King. That word actually means “save now,” and though in their own minds they waited for an earthly king, God had a different way in mind of bringing true salvation to all who would trust in Him.
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” Ps. 118:26
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom. 10:9
- The Bible says that Jesus wept for Jerusalem. In the midst of the praise of the moment, He knew in His heart that it wouldn’t be long that these same people would turn their backs on Him, betray Him, and crucify Him. His heart broke with the reality of how much they needed a Savior.
“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it, and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.” Luke 19:41-42.
- Palm Sunday reminds the faithful that the reign of Christ is far greater than any the mind of man could ever conceive or plan. Man looked for someone to fight their battles in the present day world. Yet God had the ultimate plan of sending His Son to fight the final battle over death. This is the greatness of why we celebrate this week. Because of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, we can be set free of death.
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,’” John 11;25.
From as far north as Batanes to the villages of Mindanao, for people who were baptized into the Cross, Lent has become a major portion of the people’s tradition and culture.
There are some who ask, and with good reason, what Lent is and why is it widely practiced by those who profess Christianity.
Some even ask: Is it because the Bible commands it?
Or did Christ or any of His apostles observe Lent?
Unlike New Year’s, Epiphany, Christmas, Halloween, St. Valentine’s Day and other pagan holidays celebrated by the secular, non-religious world, the Lenten season is observed by zealous religious believers.
Some Church observers say people who observe Lent may be religious, dedicated and sincere – “but they are sincerely wrong.”
Some propose an examination of Lent, its practices and customs, its historic and religious origins,and its true meaning from the Bible’s perspective, not from the “traditions of men” (Mark 7:7-9).
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “the real aim of Lent is, beyond all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ…the better the preparation the more effective the celebration will be.
“One can effectively relive the mystery only with purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in them the desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts.”
Some scholars say that on the surface, this belief sounds sincere and heartfelt.
But they claim this does not agree with the Bible, God’s Holy Word, the only source of true spiritual knowledge and understanding (John 17:17). (ai/mtvn)