The celebration of Palm Sunday on April 5 this year is markedly different from the commemoration since this predominantly Christian nation of 108 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 9 and 10.
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 following the government’s enforced Enhanced Community Quarantine or lockdown.
In Metro Manila and its outskirts, at least two Catholic churches – the Santuario del Santo Cristo in San Juan City and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Cainta, Rizal – went live with their respective Masses to celebrate Palm Sunday.
At the Dominican-run Santuario del Santo Cristo, Fr. Matthias Nga Reh, OP, was the priest presider at 11.00 a.m. while the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Brookside Hills in Cainta went livestream online at 8 a.m.
In other areas of Luzon, where there is a complete lockdown since nearly a month ago, priests in Catholic and Aglipayan churches celebrated Palm Sunday Masses alone in their respective churches while the faithful prayed at home, according to text messages received by this writer.
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.
1. 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.
2. 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.”
3. 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
4. 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.
5. 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.