St. John tells us it was six days before the Passover, the central feast of the Jewish people, a remembrance of God’s deliverance from Pharaoh and Egypt, but also a looking forward to their final deliverance through the promised Prophet, the Messiah. Jesus Christ, of course, is the fulfillment of the promises of the Passover.
St. Melito, the Bishop of Sardis, preached on this very topic during this very week nearly 1,900 years ago:
“There was much proclaimed by the prophets about the mystery of the Passover: that mystery is Christ, and to him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Today is Palm Sunday and so we just celebrated Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. On that first Palm Sunday, the crowds had greeted Jesus with hope. They waved their palms at Him, an act symbolic of their hope for a national deliverer. They even offered praises reserved for the Messiah: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” The people were looking for a King, a deliverer, a man of stature that would rescue them from their enemies by the might of the sword. God, however, had different plans. The prophet Zechariah (9:9-10) revealed the sort of King that God would provide: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations.” God’s plan included a King not on a chariot, but a donkey.
Today the Blessed Virgin Mary shows us true faith. The Angel Gabriel has just brought her the most unlikely message from God Himself. The young Mary is informed that she has found favor with God and so will give birth to the Messiah, the eternal Son of God. Of course this news shocks Mary. She is, after all, a virgin. She was young, but she was not stupid. She may have been a virgin, but she knew something about the birds and the bees. So how could she possibly give birth? The Angel Gabriel responds that she will conceive not in the normal manner, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. He concludes, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary demonstrates true faith for us when she hears this most unlikely word from God: “Let it be to me according to your word.”