Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion: Challenges and Triumphs
The contrast in today’s liturgy is shocking. We began with the enactment of the Palm Sunday Procession of the Lord into Jerusalem. Jesus comes in riding on a donkey as the prophet Zechariah had foretold. People lay their cloaks before Him. Others wave palm branches proclaiming, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the Kingdom of our Father David that is to come. Hosanna in the highest.” David had been dead for a thousand years, but the prophets had said that an Anointed One, a Messiah, a Christ, would come from the line of David.
And here he was, Jesus of Nazareth. Men and women cheered. Children sang. Jesus remained quiet. He knew that there would be a radical change in the way that most perceived Him. They were ready for a Messiah to rule them. They were not ready for a Messiah to suffer for them.
And so we come to that huge contrast, the contrast from palms to passion. We displayed this in our liturgy with the change of music and vestments, from white to red, and from triumphal music proclaiming All Glory Laud and Honor, to the solemn music remembering the cross. O Sacred Head Surrounded by crown of piercing thorns. O Bleeding head so wounded, reviled and put to scorn.
The events we commemorate during Holy Week often re-occur in our own lives. One minute we are acclaimed, feted, made to feel altogether good about ourselves. Crowds gather around us wanting to shake our hand, pat us on the back. OK, maybe not that much. But we do have those times when people congratulate us for doing our job well, for getting good grades in school, or for some sport accomplishment, or an accomplishment in dance, music or other areas of fine arts. And then, suddenly, everything changes. Suddenly we are no longer that genius in the office, that brilliant student, that protégé on the stage, that wonder on the athletic field.
In this “What have you done for me lately?” world, we can find ourselves feted one moment and forgotten the next. Then when things go wrong, we wonder, “Where did the crowd go?” And we feel very much alone, as Jesus felt when only a handful of people were there to support him on the hill of Calvary.
Jesus was there on the hill because he was true to Himself. He lived and died for the Kingdom of God. He lived and died to lead us to the Kingdom of God. Like the Lord, we can and must be true to ourselves. We have to realize that it is not the opinion of the masses that matter. What matters is that we are true to ourselves. If that brings us to our own cross, and it will, if that results in the crowd of supporters being reduced to just a handful of our closest friends and immediate family, and it will, so be it. Standing up for what is right and true, what is moral and just, is never going to be popular. Jesus reminds us in John 15:18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” What matters is that we are who we were created to be, reflections of God’s love in the world. If standing up for what is right and moral results in our being mocked and rejected, if there are times that we feel very alone in proclaiming and living our faith, then we are in good company. For example, we hear “What are you too good to drink with us?” or “If you don’t love me enough to have sex with me, I’ll find someone who will” or “Look, everybody is taking this, doing that. What makes you think that you and your wife, your husband, are so special.” And we lose friends, or at least people we had thought were friends. And we are alone. Welcome to the cross. We need to be true to ourselves, our inner-selves, our spiritual selves. We need to be true to the image of God we were created to reveal to the world. We need to embrace our cross as the Lord embraced His Cross. And when we take those steps of courage, when we leap into a living faith, we need to remember that no matter what is happening around us, no matter whether we are feted or forgotten, the Lord embraces us.
We remember the Lord’s Passion this week, uniting our own struggles to His. And we pray for the faith to recognize that the Lord sees us, knows our determination to live for Him, and is present to guide us through the cross to the joy of everlasting life.