Sunday Sermon for April 2, 2023, Palm Sunday, Year A

Readings: Mt 21:1-11; Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Mt 26:14-27:66

In the first Gospel reading we hear the people crying out “Hosanna” as Jesus is making His way down the Mount of Olives and into Jerusalem.  The word hosanna means “Please save.”  It is a call for salvation.  This call is also connected to Jesus being the son of David and the people’s begging for salvation from on high.  So, this tells us that the people were seeing Jesus as the Messiah, the son of David; they were also seeing that He was sent from God because the salvation they were seeking was from on high.

All this was happening because Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead and the people were amazed by what they had witnessed.  We do not know how much the people understood about what needed to happen for our souls to be saved, so they may have thought something that would appear to be glorious should occur.  In fact, something more glorious than we can imagine did occur, but the appearance was anything but glorious.

We recall that at the Last Supper our Lord said He was going to be glorified and our Heavenly Father would be glorified in Him.  One needs to see with the eyes of faith in order to see the glory of our Lord’s supreme act of love on the Cross.  St. Paul understood this and proclaimed to the Philippians, as we hear in the second reading, that because of our Lord’s act of humbling Himself, taking our human nature, and dying on the Cross, God has exalted Him and bestowed upon Him the Name that is above every other name.

Returning to the scene prior to the crucifixion, we do not know who was in the crowd that gathered at the Praetorium, but perhaps some of the same people who were calling for salvation as Jesus came into Jerusalem were now calling for His crucifixion.  In other words, they were calling for salvation without knowing what they were doing.

What is most amazing is that when we contrast the calls for salvation from the people lining the road on the Mount of Olives with the clamoring that took place while our Lord was on the Cross, the contrast could not be more striking.  It is possible that the people on the road did not understand the depths of what they were saying and to whom, but it is clear that the people who were at Calvary that day did not understand at all.  Contrary to the calls for salvation, the people and the High Priests were jeering at our Lord because He would not save Himself.

We know, of course, that Jesus did not need to be saved.  He testified that He could ask His Father and God would send legions of angels to help Him.  But He did not come for Himself; He came to die for us so that we might have life by His death. 

Both the religious leaders and the pagan soldiers thought they were imposing upon our Lord the most cruel and humiliating death.  On the natural level they were right.  However, they did not know the ways of God, the ways that are often exactly the opposite of our human ways.  God revealed through the Prophet Isaiah that despite all the shameful things that were done to our Lord, He was not disgraced nor was He ashamed.  Why?  Because He was doing this out of pure love.

He was doing the will of God in every aspect of the Passion, but He was also doing it all from a motive of charity, because God is love.  He showed us what loving God with one’s whole heart actually looks like.  More than that, He showed us in a most profound manner what loving one’s neighbor as one’s self looks like. 

As we go through the Sacred Triduum, and especially as we pray the Lamb of God, we must always keep before us our need and desire for salvation.  At the same time, we must always keep before us the price of our salvation.  Most importantly, we must always keep before us the love with which our Lord accepted and embraced all the aspects of His Passion.

It is a challenge for us to accept that everything Jesus endured was done out of love for us, that is, to save our souls.  We must accept that we are loveable before we can accept the love our Lord pours upon us from the Cross.  Once we know our own dignity, then we can see the dignity of others and strive to love them as our Lord loves them.  The more we love the more we realize how little we actually love and the more poignant becomes the call from our hearts: Hosanna in the highest!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit