Both the Gospel Story read during the Blessing of Palms and the Passion Narrative read as the Gospel of the Palm Sunday Mass tell us of what happened in Jesus’ life long ago, and it is important that we be mindful of all of it. But when we let them, these Stories also offer us insight into what is going on in our own life right here and now. Each of us can consider these Stories prayerfully and have very different understandings because our lives are different from each other. There will always be commonalities.
It is worthwhile remembering that Jesus did not suffer and die to appease an angry God. He chose to endure his sufferings to show us we are amiss in any number of ways. He chose to accept some of the worst things we can do to each other, and by undergoing and conquering them, showed us that we have a lot to learn, and evil will not have the last word for any of us ever. He also tells us today that “I am the way, the truth, and the life”. He shows us how, and offers us the grace, to live as we are created — in God’s image. He offers us salvation, not in just the future in our next life, but now as we grow into the fulness of who we are along with the others in our life. He shows us salvation is not a private thing between us and God, but involves all of us together.
Jesus also tells us, “Whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.” Can I hear him saying these words to me in my everyday life? Do I even want to hear him, or do I feel I already have everything and everybody figured out? Am I open to the Spirit calling me to grow?
Jesus was truly an innocent man. The “crimes” that led to his suffering and execution were his opposition to any group or “systems” that caused people to suffer, primarily the Temple system and the Roman Empire system. A question I might ask myself is am I involved, directly or indirectly, in any systems or groups that cause innocent people to suffer? Do I support any political or religious system or group that causes people to suffer because of who they love, how they identify themselves, how they dress, the color of their skin, their gender? How do I treat others who do not think or act the way I do or feel they should? I know I am capable of great violence, both in actions and words. Am I willing to recognize this and be open to growing in peace-filled directions?
Recently we had yet another school shooting and more shootings, and incidents of increasing hate and violence. Am I content with just continuing to send “thoughts and prayers”? Do I have any real interest in the “common good”, or do I just want what I want for me? Am I concerned about the homeless, the trafficked, the increasing suicides of young people who are questioning who they are and are condemned and ridiculed for doing so?
In the Palm Sunday Story, as long as Jesus was acting as the crowds thought he should, they were solidly behind him. But when he was not doing what they expected, they eagerly turned against him. How do I feel about Jesus in my life? Am I open to his inviting me to grow in ways that I might not be enthusiastic about? Am I willing to let him help me see the people and events in my life in a new way? Am I willing to follow him and get involved in unpopular situations? Do I turn my back and walk away when I sense him calling me to reach out to others in ways that will certainly be opposed, often noisily, by others? Do I have the courage and integrity to practice what I preach? A lesson from the Army: do I say “do what I say”, or do I have the courage to live “do as I do”. Do I care at all? Is what I say truly an operational value, or just a stated value?
Throughout his life, especially in what we recall during Holy Week, Jesus shows us everything we can know of God in our human condition. His coming among us, his Incarnation, reminds us that God is with us in everything, especially our suffering. We are surrounded by suffering, some of which we might be aware of, others of which not so much. These events which culminate in Easter and the Resurrection, offer us limitless encouragement and hope, both of which we really need these days. We might ask the grace of openness, and the wisdom and courage to ask Jesus how we can help him live our Father’s love in our life as he did in his. Always learning, hopefully growing. Just sayin . . .