Throughout the Lenten season, we will post reflections for holy days and Sundays from both this year’s Lenten reflection booklet, Witnesses on the way, which includes all-new reflections written by National Council Chair Charlene Howard and her husband Michael Howard (and daily reflections from newly-named Ambassadors of Peace) and from previously published Lenten booklets, such as the one below, written by Ambassador of Peace and 2022 Teacher of Peace Marie Dennis in 2008Click here to see all reflections as they are posted as well as links to other Lenten resources on our Lent 2023 webpage.

REFLECTION FOR Palm Sunday, April 2, 2023

by Marie Dennis, originally published in 2008

Matthew 21:1-11 | Isaiah 50:4-7 | Philippians 2:6-11 | Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 OR 27:11-54

This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughters of Zion: Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey …”
Matthew 21:4-5a

As described in Matthew, Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem was powerful public liturgy loaded with political and social significance and culminating his long and deliberate journey toward the center of religious and political power in first-century Palestine. Completely consistent with the thrust of his public ministry and with his message to those of us who follow, Jesus’s street theater, which introduces our own Holy Week of high drama, enacted the prophecy of Zechariah (9:9): “A just savior is he, meek and riding on an ass …”

By his carefully choreographed repudiation of Messianic triumphalism, he demonstrated again his vocation to announce the in breaking reign of God, not the triumph of the Davidic temple- state. Matthew, following Mark, lifts from Zechariah this image – “meek and riding on an ass” – a radical alternative to that probably on the minds of those who hailed Jesus as he entered the holy city. “The warrior’s bow,” continues Zechariah (9:10), “shall be banished and he shall proclaim peace to the nations….”

The profound threat to an unjust status quo levied by Jesus’s message and ministry made his deliberately nonviolent and triumphal approach to Jerusalem unbearably threatening to those in power. The plot to kill him thickened.

Yet, all the way to the cross, Jesus maintained a powerful stance of nonresistance that we believe overcame sin and evil. His nonresistance to torture and to crucifixion fit not into the belligerent ways of kingdom-building many expected, but was a sacrifice powerful enough to challenge injustice and evil for all eternity.

In a world overwhelmed by violence, we are invited to follow in his footsteps. Mark recorded the way clearly for all of us  would be disciples:

  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute use” (Matthew 5:44)
  • “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…” (Matthew 6:19)
  • “Do to others what you would have them do to you… ” (Matthew 7:12 )

To live according to Jesus’s instructions would distinguish us from the mainstream of western culture as clearly as Jesus stood out from the mainstream in his time.


  • During this Holy Week, read the newspaper and listen to the news about our broken world with close attention. Celebrate the dramatic liturgies of these days conscious of the context in which we live and listening for the ways that Jesus is example might guide our contemporary response.

>> Join the Pax Christi USA community on Monday, April 3, for the final week in our series of Lenten prayer services over ZoomClick here for more information and to register

>> Click here to see more resources for prayer, study and action this Lenten season.

Marie Dennis, Ambassador of Peace and 2022 Teacher of Peace, has served at every level of leadership with Pax Christi, from her local Washington, D.C. chapter, on the national council of Pax Christi USA, and ultimately as co-president of Pax Christi International for 12 years (2007-2019). Currently she leads the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International. She is the author of multiple books, has served as a board member for many organizations, has led dozens of retreats and international delegations, and is a sought-after speaker on nonviolence and peace. The mother of six children and grandmother of nine, she is a founding member of the Assisi community in Washington, D.C.

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