Enter the Story
April 10 : Palm Sunday
Readings : Luke 19:28-40; Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14-23:56 or 23:1-49
And now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. Luke 19:37
I don’t know if you have ever experienced actually using palms on Palm Sunday at church. I can just imagine children having fun with them as they are passed down the row, held in the air, wiggled and waved, gripped in palms of every size, from largest to smallest. Waving palms on Palm Sunday is an old tradition. We do it like we do so many things in liturgy—with our bodies as well as our minds, hearts, and voices. We feel the smoothness of the palm in our hands, we see its sleek lines and its pale green colour, we feel the air move as we wave it, we see how many fill the church, we feel the energy in the room. With this day—with this movement and this liturgy—we move into the dance, the ceremony of Holy Week.
When we reach out and take the palm, we commit ourselves to an ancient story and our part in it. We become the crowd. The Pharisees were scandalized by the shouting and praising and joy of the welcoming crowds, all because of Jesus. They told Jesus to silence his disciples, to make the people stop, as he approached the Mount of Olives. But Jesus didn’t stop the people, and he won’t stop us. We know what is to come. But for today, for now, we take up palms. We pass them down the row. We place one in every hand, largest to smallest. We enter the story.
We hear two Gospel readings today: Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the passion story. The people who jubilantly welcome Jesus’ yell, a few days later. “Crucify him!” Their fickleness contrasts with Jesus’ faithfulness. He enters the city riding on a beast of burden, not on a warhorse. In death, he embodies what he has taught: loving and forgiving his enemies; reaching out in mercy to the marginalized (i.e., the repentant criminal); praying with trust to his Father.
Lord Jesus, as I hold my palm, help me to recall your faithfulness-and-love-unto-death.
REFLECTIONS ADAPTED FROM : Not By Bread Alone by Amy Ekeh, Thomas D. Stegman SJ