Hosanna and the cross

| Deacon Tyler Mattson | April 5, 2017 | 0 Comments

“Hosanna in the highest!”

The crowds in Jerusalem called out, “Hosanna to the son of David!” as Jesus entered into the city, and they laid their palm branches on the road. As Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple, even the children cried out “Hosanna!” Hosanna is an untranslated Hebrew word meaning something like “save me.” The Jews used it as an acclamation of praise to God during their highest feasts. We proclaim this at every Mass right before the Eucharist.

The Palm Sunday liturgy starts with that “Hosanna” of the crowds as we take palm branches of our own in order to adore the King of Kings. We then hear the full Passion narrative from Matthew’s Gospel, and we hear how our king is enthroned on a cross with only a crown of thorns. The crowd’s praise of Jesus is transformed into mockery. The only sign that this man dying on the cross is a king is the death sentence written over his head, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Our challenge this Palm Sunday is to see the intimate connection between the Hosanna and the cross, between powerful praise and the suffering of the Son of God. The Mass that we celebrate every week gives us our answer.

We sing the “Hosanna” right before the gifts of bread and wine are consecrated and become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We sing “Save me” right before the savior of the world is made present to us. We cry out in praise right before the saving event of the cross is made present anew at the Mass. In other words, we get to become participants in the very moments that we just heard proclaimed in the Gospel account of the Passion.

Jesus is a king like no other. He is a king who humbles himself out of love for us. As St. Paul says in the reading for April 9, “Jesus humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Have you ever loved someone so much that you would have done anything for them? Jesus’ love is like that for us. He loves us so much that he is literally consumed by this love as he humbles himself to die on the cross.

Now can you see why we sing praises? Now can you see why we cry out, “Hosanna, save me”? It is because Jesus did save us, and he continues to save us.

Imagine if every choice we made, every thought we had, every desire of our heart was a calling out in praise to Jesus, “Hosanna, save me!” What if we never lost sight of what Jesus did for us on the cross and how we can participate in it at every Mass? I think our lives would be consumed by love, just like Jesus. I think we would have the joy the world cannot give, knowing we have such a king of love. Hosanna to the son of David! Hosanna in the highest!

Deacon Mattson is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. His teaching parish is Holy Family in St. Louis Park, and his home parish is Christ the King in Sioux Falls.


Sunday, April 9
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

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Category: Sunday Scriptures