Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
The readings for the day can be found here.
Today, on Palm Sunday – as we begin the holiest of weeks and once again prepare to enter into the mystery of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection – I find myself contemplating what it really means to prepare ourselves for such a mystery. And I am struck by the contrast between the two Gospel stories that will be proclaimed in churches all across the world today.
In the first story, the stage is set and the way prepared. Imagine the scene: Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem on a colt; the energy in the crowd surrounding him is palpable. People are spreading out their cloaks and leafy branches on the road, shouting out “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” all to prepare the way of Jesus, the way of suffering and death on the cross. I wonder if Jesus knew, as he rode into that holy city amidst the excited assembly, what was about to happen. How must he have felt? And what about the people who were willing to lay their coats out on the muddy street in order to make a clean path for Jesus, the people who could not stop praising him? Could they possibly imagine what Jesus was about to endure, and were they really “prepared” for any of it?
Then we get to the second story, the Passion. Gone are the enthusiastic multitudes supporting Jesus. In their place are crowds of people who want to condemn and scorn him. Even his closest friends seem to disappear when the going gets tough. Only a few faithful women remain at his side to the bitter end, quietly bearing witness and offering him love in his darkest hour. What happened to all of those supporters who, only days before, had seemingly been so full of life as they prepared the way for Jesus?
When I try to place myself within these stories, I cannot help but think that I’m not all that different from all those who are excited about the idea of Jesus but struggle to stay the course when it gets uncomfortable, when I might get in trouble, when associating with Jesus means sacrificing my status or security. Perhaps, like most of the disciples, I find it easier to prepare the way for Jesus than to join him on that way.
I pray, on this Palm Sunday, that God will grant us the grace to move beyond preparing and to actually walk with Jesus on the way of suffering and dying to self. I pray for the courage and strength stay the course, that we might experience the new life that God has promised us all.
Abby Braun is the Liturgy Coordinator in the Department of Campus Ministry.