Palm Sunday is the only Mass with two colors, and two Gospels. The liturgy begins with jubilant green palm branches as Christ triumphantly enters His City; it ends in red as he is executed five days later, with his blood soaking the ground beneath the cross. He took the city like no commander or emperor has ever taken a city. He took it without shedding the enemy’s blood, seated on an ass, the foal of a colt, in perfect humility. The city would demand blood, but it would be only his own. No one took it from him; He freely gave it to save the city, as he does at each Mass.
Christ begins the great labor of redemption this day, and will accomplish it in seven days. As God accomplished the great labor of creating the world in “seven days,” so will He accomplish the great work of recreating it in seven days. He fixed his eyes on the will of God to accomplish this work: “I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.” Christ sets himself to the task, and we must do the same.
God has appointed to each of us some great task, a “city” that we each must take as Christ took Jerusalem. It will be our vocation to enter this city and make it our own: a marriage, a career, some great sacrifice for another, some titanic suffering we must undergo. The time comes for every man to “set his face like flint,” heedless of either praise or mockery, in order to accomplish the work God has set before him.
In this Holy Week, we accompany Jesus Christ in defeat and triumph, in order to prepare for our own. To win, we must first lose, but our initial loss will not defeat us if we keep our eyes fixed on Christ. “Let us go,” as Philip said in last Sunday’s Gospel, “to die with him.”