Palm (Passion) Sunday/Holy Week Reflection, April 1st 2012
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciplesand said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
(Mark 11:1–11 NRSV)
The gospel of Palm Sunday presents us with two parades – the first, into Jerusalem from Bethany on the Sunday. This came through the walls with Jesus being acclaimed as a political saviour. People hoped he would triumph, that his followers would put him into power and all hoped he would get rid of the Romans. Like the parade to vote in a new leader.
The second, from Jerusalem outside the walls of the city on the following Friday in what looked like disgrace. A man carrying his cross, crowned with thorns, mocked and bullied, tortured. And about to be killed. Like the parade to a graveside, our last parade.
Jesus seemed to fear the first more than the second. He had no wish for power, kingship. He comes in his true colours in the second – the one who loved onto death. Jesus’ first – the political leader, the hope that the Son of David would lead them against the Romans, then in occupation in the city. The second – the real son of David, the saviour from evil, loving us.
He had all sorts of followers – like the camp followers, some terrorists, the people on the make for themselves, or the ones who lasted till the end, like his mother, an aunt and a few of the followers. The others were at a distance, they would come back, and would follow later to the end.
Our hope is to be in that second parade. Maybe we shouldn’t take the palms home on Palm Sunday! They are not the real thing. Palms are for waving in triumph. The cross is more true. The cross is his love, and as we follow in this parade – the way of the cross – we show our the willingness to console him in love to the end.
It’s a week of giving, that’s why it’s holy. The physical pain does not of itself make it holy; it’s a holy week simply because a man like us, and one of the Trinity, gave his life, suffering pain in love.
Donal Neary SJ