Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

With each passing year my thoughts often drift to people and events recent and long past seared in my memory. And I marvel at progress and new discoveries, just recently advances in science and medicine and the renewed conquest of outer space and the historic vote to confirm the first black woman associate Supreme Court justice. And farther down the garden path in my lifetime anyway, the first moon landing and mobile phone technology and the internet and efforts to provide affordable healthcare. It’s true, all progress and new discovery comes at a steep price. Anyway, some people believe the human race peaked some time back. For them, enough already with designer genes and self-driving cars and cryptocurrency and the dark web. I just hope not to be around when zombies take over the world. I bet some are convinced they’re already here.

But all this reminiscing also brings me to ponder suffering and loss, my own and that of others, some as a natural consequence of our shared mortality, others due to our indifference, our neglect, our outright malice. We might never know the true origins of the coronavirus pandemic, or why Russia feels threatened by Ukraine, or why we’re still watching the Oscars. Yet while suffering and loss will never depart from us, it helps to ask what it might mean, and what we’ve learned, and why we should even care.

With each passing year I am once again forced to ponder what Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection means so I can discover or rediscover new purpose for my own faith journey and perhaps assist others along theirs. Year in and year out we hear the same stories from sacred scripture and we become numb to their transforming power. And are there even answers for the enduring conundrums that have eluded greater and holier minds through many generations? I have always said the Holy Spirit is not done speaking and opening our hearts and minds to eternal truths. On occasion I try to explain what I come to understand in ways I don’t think I am proficiently articulate. How do you define a conviction that you arrive at from suffering and loss? How do you explain compassion? What do you tell good Catholics who run away from the cross and despise the church’s mission to serve the poor and to proclaim good news? And what about those who make all sorts of demands so as not to disappoint their very Catholic grandma but have no sincere desire to deepen and pass on their own Catholic faith?

There is an indifference, a dismissiveness, and a general lack of concern that pervades the crowd watching the events that unfold in today’s account of the passion and death of Jesus. At times they are caught up in a joyful frenzy singing his praises. At times they are unrelenting in demanding his death. At times they stand silently as they watch him suffer and die. And when it’s all over they casually return to life as before unmoved and unchanged. We can imagine how his close friends were affected seeing him scourged and stumbling in the streets carrying his cross and being stripped and mocked and nailed to the cross and breathing his last and being laid in his mother’s arms. The easy distinction between them and the crowd is the close friendship and partnership in ministry they shared. We can grieve for a stranger, but we often don’t linger. When we grieve for a close friend, the scars stay with us much longer.

I suppose I answered my own question. I can tell you what the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus means to me, but only you can tell what it means to you and how and why you should even care. If you know him more personally and love him more intimately, you won’t need anyone to tell you anything. But if you have any desire to meet him and to learn about him, hang out with those who do know him personally and love him intimately. You will discover that he is still in our midst, still feeding our hunger, still restoring us to friendship with the Father and one another, still healing our wounds, still raising us from the dead.

Or you can be one of the crowd who sing “Hosanna” one moment, and yell “Crucify him” the next, who watch silently when he is put to death, and casually return to life as before unmoved and unchanged.

There’s so much more to our Christian faith than just smells and bells. Seek Jesus. He just may be the reason why you came today. I bet grandma would approve that even more.

Rolo B Castillo © 2022