Palm Sunday, the sixth and final Sunday of Lent, is a day of mixed emotions for Christians. First we gather in the narthex of the church and watch as the priest blesses the palm fronds that have been gathered for the celebration. After the blessing we are each handed a palm and walk into the main body of the church while the choir sings a joyous song…“Hosanna! 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!” It feels a bit triumphant…the people are hailing Jesus as their Messiah….
Most of us are smiling as we walk in waving our palms, raising our voices… Jesus has arrived, humbly, on the back of a donkey…and we are here to welcome Him. The end of lent is here…Holy Week is upon us… Easter is on the horizon… But before we can rejoice, we must enter into the suffering…we must unite ourselves, as best we can, with Christ’s suffering on the Cross and as Mass begins we are immediately taken to the garden of Gethsemane, with the Responsorial Psalm: “My God, My God…why have you abandoned me?”
The Gospel takes us further on the path of Jesus’ journey as he approaches the very reason for His Life… His destination with the Cross on Calvary. We read about how the chief priests and elders are anxious to kill Jesus and become angered by the woman who has ‘wasted’ the expensive oil to anoint His feet. It is a long reading.… And soon we are witnessing the betrayal of Jesus by one of His own disciples…. It is tumultuous journey… The crowds which had just previously welcomed Him, have become angered…Evil is brewing and there is chaos everywhere… The mobs are shouting with voices that now hold no joy…As we stand there listening, it is hard to maintain our composure as we hear the cries of mobs as they yell, “Crucify Him… Crucify Him…” But, it has to be hard, and it should cause us to cringe. Sin had entered the world…and whether we want to admit it or not…. we helped write this part of the story…we are just as much to blame as the Sanhedrin.
We have to listen to the readings so that we can prepare ourselves for what comes next. We must not allow ourselves to skip over Holy Week…going from the joy of Palm Sunday right into the joy of Easter. No, as faithful Catholics we must endure the journey. We must remain alert and allow ourselves to meditate upon these words…we mustn’t fall asleep… We must travel this path of Holy Week. Side by side with Christ. All the way to the foot of the Cross…if we can…It is a difficult journey. Today’s Gospel reading is just a small taste of the pain that we will have to face. The truth behind it all. We can not blame this crime on anyone else. It has our DNA all over it… our fallen nature is evident… Each one of us is marked with the stain of original sin…and the blood of the Spotless Lamb, is on our hands.
But God is awesome. He knew us before we were even born. Just like He knew our sins were going to cost Him dearly… He knew that this ransom could only be fulfilled by the blood of His only begotten Son… Jesus, the New Sacrificial Lamb… He knew all this and still… He bore it all. Accepting everything we could dish out, all of our inequities… He bore them all…. with patience…with humility and with love. His Love. So that we could live. He is that Awesome.
Cleansed by His Blood we are made new. Made clean. His blood is the remedy for our sin. But as Christians who already know why we were made…we should use this time in prayer and take a deep breath as we finish up our celebrations of Palm Sunday… Holy Week is an opportunity for each of us to really dive into Christ’s Passion… going all in…as it were…so that after witnessing His death and suffering on the Cross…we will be ready… both physically and spiritually to rejoice…Really rejoice… in the promises of Easter.