Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

With today’s procession into church carrying palm branches singing “Hosanna to the Son of David,” we begin our observance of Holy Week. The church asks us to set this time aside that we might remember and rejoice at the awesome wonder of God’s mercy and love. We call to mind Jesus’ final days with his disciples, drawing them deeper into his friendship, revealing to them the depths of his relationship with the Father, sharing with them the essential truths to sustain them on their own journey. Jesus knew no one could ever be sufficiently prepared, and that his disciples would be forever changed by what they would witness. It would be a rough week for all of them. But he was convinced it was the only way to teach his greatest lesson.

When I was in the Holy Land in February, I brought back a few small rocks, one from the Garden of Gethsemane. As I hold it in my hand, I am reminded simply I was there once, a pilgrim among millions of other pilgrims through history. It is a journey we have walked before, a story we’ve heard many times. We know the people in it. We can imagine their connection to Jesus. We know how it ends. And our familiarity with the story is perhaps the greatest obstacle preventing us from being transformed by it. What does God ask of us when we remember these horrific events in the life of Jesus? That we be moved to tears? That we feel guilt and responsibility for Jesus’ suffering and death? Does God demand that we be shaken to our core as we ponder what he had to endure? And then what? Do we simply return home? Do we just go back to our lives, back to our brokenness, our relationships, our drama, our dreams, our prejudices, our fears, our obsessions, our indifference? Should anything be different? I don’t know the right answer to the question, or that there even is a right answer.

Whenever we read or listen to an account of the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection, the scene is set by the sacred writer, the words spoken the way the story has been told time and again, mindful of the impact of this memory on the community of Jesus’ disciples. Since we are not eyewitnesses to these events, images we’ve seen in paintings and the movies have influenced what we see in our mind’s eye. And impressive images help us better appreciate these events as they unfolded in history. But in the end it is only a good story, a great story even, unless we also hear God’s invitation to greater intimacy and friendship with him, until we decide to intentionally and more faithfully live what Jesus taught, until we allow the Holy Spirit to transform and guide us, until we express our love for God truly in our love for one another. If God is life and indeed the source of our life, we cannot insist on calling it a life if God is not in it, not God we imagine God to be, but God as Jesus reveals God to be.

Sacred scripture invites us to immerse ourselves in the passion of our Lord Jesus this week. Sit with him at table when he offers his body and blood as food and drink. Let him wash your feet. Go with him to the garden to watch and pray. Stand with him as he is arrested and condemned. Walk with him to Calvary as he bears his cross. Stand at the foot of the cross with the apostle John. Kneel by his mother’s side when his lifeless body is laid in her arms.

God makes known to us through Jesus the immensity and abundance of his mercy and love. Immerse yourself in his passion this week. It’s not supposed to be just another story. God is inviting us to encounter him, to enter his heart, to share the richness of his life.

Rolo B Castillo © 2023