Palm Sunday 2019
Apr 15, 2019
St. Luke describes three crowds of people in his Gospel and Passion. Their different responses to Jesus – have been repeated through the ages – and probably in our own lives.
There were Pilgrims – making their way to Jerusalem (the Holy City) - for the feast of Passover - some were pious folks – some experts in the traditions – and others who had barely heard the stories. Jesus was one of them – not on pilgrim’s feet – but humble and riding on a donkey – as the prophet Zechariah had foretold - the Messiah would come.
There were some in this crowd - who recognized the symbolism – excitement spread like wildfire – and suddenly – there was a triumphant procession with wildly enthusiastic singing and expressions of homage.
They seemed to consider Jesus to be a superstar. However - their commitment was not deep and their excitement faded as soon as danger appeared.
The second crowd - the ones gathered at Jesus’ trial – included religious leaders and other people - who raucously denounced Jesus and demanded that Pilate release a convicted criminal in his place.
The third crowd – mentioned only by St. Luke – followed behind. This group included weeping women and were the only ones to express any sort of protest or grief over what was happening to Jesus. They followed him at a distance from the cross until his body was placed in the tomb. They could do little – but Jesus knew they were there. Sometimes – presence - is the only and most important thing someone has to offer.
The Passion according to St Luke challenges us to ask – where do we find ourselves in the passion drama?
Is there a split between the faith we profess and the lives we live. Are we faithful to Jesus and his Church - when things become difficult - or are we “fair-weather” Catholics? How do we express our “hosannas” when we are not in a crowd of happy, singing Christians? How often do we end up as complicit bystanders because we avoid speaking an unpopular opinion? Are we willing to appear as weak as the women who could do no more than walk and weep but allowed their presence to speak a powerful message of solidarity?
The palm - that we take home today - can remind us all year long of how we can fail the Lord - like those people of Jerusalem long ago - and how we all need the grace – the power of His Passion – to stay faithful and loyal to Christ. The drama of Palm Sunday is not only an event of 2000 years ago – it is our drama today – the split between faith and life. The people of Palm Sunday are none other than ourselves.