Palm Sunday means Easter is just a week away.
Other than that sequence in time, most people don’t know why the day is so named.
This year, Palm Sunday is April 1, the day recognized by many as April Fools’ Day, when jokes or tricks are traditionally played on the unsuspecting.
Jesus was not unsuspecting as he prepared for a trip to Jerusalem. Palm Sunday is the memorial of Christ’s triumphant, but initially misunderstood fulfillment of prophecy.
Preparing for the journey, Jesus has an ass and her colt brought to him. The ass represents the Jewish people, long under the law of the land, and the colt is a figure of the Gentile world, which no one had ever yet brought into subjection.
The Jews will soon be rejected for having refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, and the Gentiles will take their place to be adopted as God’s people, becoming docile and faithful.
As Jesus rides the colt, the Jews and Gentiles alike go out to meet him, spreading palm branches in His path and proclaim Him to be King. This was a glorious day for Jesus and one renewed annually as the memory of this triumph of the Man-God. Regal homage is paid to Jesus, before He suffered His Passion a few days later.
So, Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week, with Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as a traditional time of cleaning in preparation for the greatest of all feasts: Easter. By Wednesday night, the house should be spotless, so that Holy Thursday, Friday and Saturday can be devoted to Christ’s suffering.
Palms can be placed over crucifixes or holy pictures to remind us of Holy Week. Sometimes palms are burned for relief from storms or natural disasters. Men often wear a piece of palm in their hats or lapels. A piece can also be placed with one’s sick call list.
Some palms are saved and burned next year to make ashes for Ash Wednesday. While palms symbolize triumph, the ashes represent death and penitence, forming a connection between suffering and victory.
We too have our triumphs, but there will always be suffering to follow. Our salvation is obedience like that of Jesus. Deuteronomy 13:4 reminds us: “Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.”