Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Holy Week - Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday - we rejoice - Jesus is coming!

"For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” - Matthew 23:39

On Palm Sunday, we are reminded that we - you and me - we sent Jesus to His cross. On Palm Sunday, we shout "Crucify Him!" - not some shadowy people from long ago...

When I was a child, this was the moment I found the most convicting, the moment that always and still brings tears to my eyes - the moment the parish cried out in one mighty voice, "Crucify Him!"

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey." - Zechariah 9:9

On Palm Sunday, Jesus - the Prince of Peace - rose into Jerusalem on a donkey - an animal of peace. Do we remember the humble donkey Mary rode upon three decades before?

"Go into the village opposite you; in which at your entering you shall find a colt tied, on which yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him here. And if any man asks you, Why do you loose him? thus shall you say unto him, Because the Lord has need of him." - Luke 19:30-31

On Palm Sunday, the people of Jerusalem celebrated the coming of Christ - they cried out His praises, they cried out hosanna, they cried out His welcome.

"Blessed be the King that comes in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!" - Luke 19:38

On Palm Sunday, Jesus watched - he beheld Jerusalem - and He wept.

"For the days shall come upon you, that your enemies shall cast a bank about you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side,
And shall lay you even with the ground, and your children within you; and they shall not leave in you one stone upon another; because you knew not the time of your visitation." - Luke 19:43-44

On Palm Sunday, people like you and me tossed palm before the feet of Jesus and His donkey. Palm symbolizing victory (to the Romans and Greeks). Palms symbolizing eternal life (to the Egyptians). Palms symbolizing - presaging - Jesus' victory over death to us...

"I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, 
and palms in their hands
And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." - Revelations 7:9-10

On Palm Sunday, I took my grandson to church. He is 16 months old, so he was not the most attentive parishioner...but he did pay sharp attention to certain key moments. He liked holding up his stalk of palm for the blessing - he waved his as joyfully as anyone did 2000 years ago! He liked the music, although he became sad when the parish sang, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"  - he stared into my face, looking for reassurance.

Palm Sunday Mass is a high Mass - a long Mass. For the Gospel reading, the whole Passion is read out - not just the shortened "Communion" version we hear (and often don't really hear) each week.

We come to grips with our part in the Passion - my part in the Passion...our sins - my sins - that need forgiveness, our complicity in the necessary sacrifice. At the point where the priest - acting as Pilate - asked,

"What do you want me to do with the man you call the king of the Jews?"

I was walking Tommy around the back of the church because he was restless. We were standing directly in front of a life-sized Crucifix at the moment I had to say,

"Crucify Him!"

I looked at the representation of a beaten, bloodied Jesus. I looked at my fresh, beautiful grandson. In that moment, I imagined the sheer horror Mary must have felt - her son, her baby, about to be killed in such a terrible manner! I hugged Tommy to me, and said a quick prayer begging God for His forgiveness, I looked into Tommy's clear eyes, and his little hand reached out to squeeze mine - in quiet confidence that Grandma loves him and will fix anything. I pray he learns that quiet confidence in his Father in Heaven.