Palm Sunday

Our reflections today are from Diane Bergant:

We see on TV the many times a soldier returns home to surprise his family. It is thrilling, despite the fact that this hero comes home possibly broken. I wonder what the people of Bethphage and Bethany thought as Jesus processed toward Jerusalem. It seems that their enthusiasm would quickly turn to disdain when he was captured, tried and put to death. Hero worship does not seem to enjoy a long shelf life.  
We don’t usually think of Jesus as a hero, but hero he is. He is our savior; the one who handed himself over for our sake; the one who was abandoned so that we might belong. Today when the excitement of the parade is over and the waving of the palms ceases, we should spend some time reflecting on the character of our hero. On this first day of Holy Week, we should try to understand why a week of betrayal and denial, of mockery and bloodshed is called holy.

Today’s readings paint pictures of terror and viciousness. Isaiah speaks of a beating and derision; the psalmist staggers under the burden of abandonment and assault; the Gospel describes each excruciating episode of Jesus’ passion. How can such horrors be endured? But they are endured. In fact, for some incomprehensible reason, they appear to be embraced.

Traditionally during Holy Week we focus on the sufferings of Jesus. But it is not suffering, not even the suffering of Jesus, that makes this week holy. Rather, it is holy because of the inexplicable and immeasurable love that prompted that suffering. Genuine love often empowers, even transforms, us. We know that love of family can engender unselfishness, and love of country can inspire heroism. This week we see that driven by love for all, Jesus willingly accepted the consequences of his messianic role.

This week is holy because of love, but it is love misunderstood. Jesus is a hero, but not in the traditional pattern of heroism. He actually looks more like a victim. He is not triumphant as we understand triumph. Instead he appears to be a failure. Judging by one set of standards—standards not unlike those of many people of his day— he has not met our expectations. But according to another standard—the standard of unconditional love—he has far surpassed our expectations.

We will make it holy if we can begin to realize the depth of God’s magnanimous love. We will make it holy if we can bring unconditional love into the lives of those around us. We will make it holy if we live according to the paradoxical standards of Jesus who, though disgraced, is still our hero.

Why Have You Abandoned Me?

We cry this day, “Hosanna!”, but unlike the people of the city of Jerusalem of long ago, we need not ask, “who is this?” This is Jesus, the one who models for us the mystery of life: dying to self so that we may be exalted, raised to new life.

This week we celebrate in pointed liturgies the meaning of our whole Christian living: dying to self so that God can raise us up too. This dying can be as simple as setting aside time to participate in all the Triduum liturgies or as demanding as to recognize what in our lives we still need to abandon to be exalted as daughters and sons of God living new life.

Perhaps what we need to abandon is a habit of thinking of ourselves and our own needs first, ahead of others. Perhaps it means not making ourselves the center of attention. Perhaps what we need to abandon is a lot of clutter we’ve accumulated that can tend to take our minds off what is really important. Perhaps we need to abandon the frenetic pace of our lives and cut some things out so we can concentrate on our loved one more or help those in need. In all, what we give up, what we abandon, leads to a new lease on life. Most important, it leads to new and deeper relationships and richer experiences.

With Jesus, we pray, “into your hands….”