Gospel: Matthew 26:14—27:66 or 27:11-54
Palm Sunday: The Joy of the Gospel at the heart of our faith
The same words and actions that transformed the lives of poor and rich alike in Jesus’ time continue to ignite the hearts of people worldwide today. As the mass begins today, we too stand by the road as Jesus enters Jerusalem, greeting him with the crowd in song and joy. Darker clouds are on the horizon. In today’s Gospel, we experience the Passion of the Christ through the voice of Saint Matthew. We are reminded that God, who has the power to move mountains, chose to enter the world as a human being. Not only was he born in a stable and rejected by his community, he was eventually condemned to death by those he came to save. Why would God do this? In part, it was necessary in order to share the Good News with humanity in a way that we could understand and intimately connect to – life, death and resurrection – this is The Joy of the Gospel.
Through this lens, we can better appreciate some of Pope Francis’ recent writings; how they often mimic Christ’s humility, accessibility and urgency in a way that speaks to some of our modern-day concerns. Two examples are his first Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, and the encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home. Both documents invite us to look past our existential and material distractions (many of which are exacerbated by our modern lifestyles) towards the heart of our faith. What can we learn by discovering, renewing or reinvigorating our relationship with both the Gospel and creation?
In The Joy of the Gospel, the message is clear: we must set forth on a “new chapter of evangelization marked by…joy” and a “renewed encounter with Jesus.” Throughout the exhortation, Pope Francis continually guides the reader towards an examination of conscience. Whether offering advice to avoid the lure of pessimism or suggesting that “our church doors should always be open,” he provides an often gentle (and sometimes less so) reminder that an active, effective church cannot thrive in a vacuum. He famously desires “a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” In the Gospel today, this is the Christ we encounter. We meet him as the one who enters the Holy City with humble joy and soon finds himself bruised & hurting because he chose to reject the security of his divinity by taking human form.
Pope Francis repeatedly connects this “field hospital” evangelization to the social mission of the church, particularly our treatment of the poor. To fully live The Joy of the Gospel we must (to the best of our abilities) mimic the attitude and behaviour of Jesus towards those living in poverty or isolation. The Holy Father also calls for the church community to help “eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor.” Are we willing to enter the Holy City as Jesus does, ready to encounter those who do not share The Joy of the Gospel and to suffer at their hands?
Although Laudato Si’ appears to focus on the environment and the integral relationship between humans, nature, and God, the foundations laid by The Joy of the Gospel are clearly present. The Pope reminds us that the gift of creation is something we must defend, nurture and appreciate. We are caretakers of God’s creation, not landlords. He asks us to take a step back from the consumer-driven nature of our society and reflect on how our lifestyles affect not only our planet and each other, but also our spiritual development. We risk forgetting the importance of our environment when we limit our interaction with it, just as we risk losing our faith if we don’t nurture it. We are asked to apply that same spirit of joy towards our care for creation.
By following in Jesus’ footsteps, Pope Francis helps us demystify and better understand some of the most profound elements of our faith. If we take these messages to heart, we are better able to witness to the true power, beauty and joy of our faith. This Sunday, as we prepare for Easter, we remind ourselves of the enormous sacrifice that Jesus made, and how the words and deeds of a humble carpenter from Nazareth still captivates the world 2,000 years later.
We are offering six weekly reflections that connect the proposed Gospel readings for the Sunday liturgy with our campaign theme. They will be published every Monday on our website or are accessible in the Resources section. This Lent, give from the heart For our Common Home!
Get your pencils ready!
For families with young children, we invite you to discover the weekly Gospel reflections of the 2020 Family Bulletin. Each reflection is accompanied by an illustration. Click on the image to download the illustration and reflection for this Sunday.