It is Palm Sunday and here comes everybody! A touch of Spring in the air and palm branches for everyone, makes this Sunday special above all others. Even Christians who do not ordinarily attend church, turn out in huge numbers for this celebration. Throughout the centuries, the glorious waving of the palm, has fostered unity in praise of a person or an idea. Most often we find it exhilarating to be part of the fanfare of a cheering crowd. This feeling accounts in part for the popularity of Palm Sunday.
The liturgy of Palm Sunday sets the stage for the unfolding drama of Holy Week. On this Sunday, we are at the threshold of immersing ourselves in the process of re-membering. Through the Scriptures and liturgical rituals, we begin to recall the events of the past in order to revitalize our relationship with Jesus and deepen our comprehension of our role in salvation history. As the week unfolds, we are drawn into the profound and sometimes conflicting emotions of joy and pathos, of trust and fear, of hope and tragedy. Every year it is the same, and yet very different.
On Palm Sunday, the priest and a small gathering ordinarily meet at the entrance of the church, to read the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The details of his route, his mode of transport, and the clamoring crowd yelling “Hosanna” or “Save us, we pray” conformed to the royal messianic tradition as well as the sensibilities of the people. After all, they were long waiting for a Messianic king and this seemed to be the moment.
Do you ever wonder what Jesus was feeling as he went into Jerusalem on a small animal of burden? Could anyone know what was in his heart and thoughts? What was he leaving behind as he traveled into the city of Jerusalem? What was he moving toward? Was the fanfare of the crowd supportive or distracting?
The reading of the Passion begins with the recounting of a woman who pours oil on the head of Jesus, possibly foretelling the care that will be taken with Jesus’ body after death. The story continues, relating the gift of love in Eucharist, the traitors, always in the midst, the torture, the death, the physical pain and the pain of betrayal.
As we focus on the events of Holy Week, we have an opportunity to reach out to someone who may be suffering pain, loneliness, grief or any other need. Such service will help another and assist us to “close the loop” in that circle of love during Holy Week: prayer, participation, and service.
–Sr. Sheila Brosnan
Sr. Sheila serves as Vice-President – Mission Integration for ArchCare, the health care ministry of the Archdiocese of New York.