Palm Sunday recalls Jesus' victory over death and sin, Bishop Jugis preaches
CHARLOTTE — Under a canopy of giant oaks and blooming dogwoods, Bishop Peter Jugis blessed palm branches to commemorate Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week.
Hundreds of people gathered April 9 in front of the Marian grotto on the grounds of St. Patrick Cathedral to hear the Gospel, the bishop’s reflection on the reading and to commemorate the beginning of Holy Week.
“In the ancient world, palms were used to welcome a great conqueror,” Bishop Jugis explained. “We see on this occasion that the palms are there to welcome Jesus into the holy city of Jerusalem. The crowds already recognized greatness in Jesus.”
He reminded them of another time when the crowds wanted to carry Jesus away and make Him king, because of the great miracles they saw Him perform. But instead, Jesus fled to the mountain alone.
“So why on this occasion (in today’s Gospel) are they using palm branches usually to signify welcoming and honoring a great conquering king?
“Little did they realize – they didn’t realize it at the moment – but the King would conquer the greatest war – the greatest battle – within a few days by His suffering, His death and His resurrection. He would conquer sin and death and give the victory to all of us who are His believers.”
The people didn’t realize what they were doing, Bishop Jugis continued, but God in His plan was working it out that they were in fact welcoming on that day, Palm Sunday, a great and victorious conqueror.
“So the palm branches that we hold and that we keep in our homes all during the year signal the victory of Jesus and our love for the 'Great Conqueror,' who has freed us from sin and death and made us children of God by His grace.
“With great devotion and great love, we display those palm branches in honor of Jesus our King, in honor of Jesus the Conqueror, and the victor over all sin and death,” Bishop Jugis concluded.
After the blessing of the palms the faithful processed into the cathedral, holding them as the ancient Israelites once did when Jesus made his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.
During the liturgy, the Gospel of Matthew (26:14-27:66), known as The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, was read by transitional Deacon Christopher Bond, Deacon Brian McNulty and Bishop Jugis speaking as Jesus, with responses by the congregation.
Palm Sunday begins the holiest week of the year for Catholics. Bishop Jugis will celebrate the Chrism Mass on Tuesday, April 11; Holy Thursday Mass on April 14; the Veneration of the Cross liturgy on Good Friday, April 14; and the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday, April 15, at St. Patrick Cathedral. For a complete schedule of liturgies at the cathedral, go to www.stpatricks.org.
— SueAnn Howell, senior reporter