Palm Sunday 2020 – Reflection on Readings by Frank O’Dea SSS

Palm Sunday 2020 - Reflection on Readings by Frank O'Dea SSS

Passion (Palm) Sunday

Reflections on Readings by Frank O’Dea SSS
[Mathew 21:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26: 14-27:66]

Today’s ceremonies are in two parts: the blessing of palms and procession and then the mass. Unfortunately, we can’t attend but we can attend in spirit by reflecting on the readings.

The reading for the blessing of palms and procession tells the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey. This is a symbol of humility. He was king of the universe and could have chosen to ride in a magnificent chariot with an escort of warriors. However, the people recognised his royal lineage and authority and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” A song of praise.

The first reading of the mass speaks of someone who accepted insults, spittle and blows without retaliation. The inclusion of this reading in today’s liturgy suggests this person is Jesus. The second reading continues this theme with Jesus being the one who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave … and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” But “God highly exalted him … so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend … and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord…” This bringing together of the opposites: slave/Lord, is worth reflecting on. There are many paradoxes in our faith.

The long gospel is the story of Jesus’ last supper, his prayer of agony in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter’s hasty promise never to betray him, betrayal by Judas with a kiss, capture by the Roman soldiers, wrongful judgement by Pilate, the notorious criminal Barabbas preferred to Jesus, being scourged, crowned with thorns, carrying his cross, cruel death by crucifixion and burial.

To say this reading is worth reflecting on is a gross understatement. We could spend a lifetime pondering on these words which describe how much Jesus loves us. Even though we are sinners and have betrayed him, he loved us to the point of suffering and death. No one could love us more.

When we spend time reflecting on these readings, we could play the African American spiritual, “Were you there?” It has the wonderful and challenging words, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed him to the wood?” These words link us very intimately to the scourging and painful death of Jesus. Music helps us to enter more deeply into our spirits.

We are unable to get to mass in these coronavirus days but while we are in enforced isolation at home, we can use the time to reflect on one of the most wonderful mysteries of our faith.


Frank O’Dea is a retired priest with the Blessed Sacrament Congregation in Melbourne.