Beginning our Most Sacred Week.
Palm and Passion Sunday marks the start of the most sacred week of the Christian Year. If I remember correctly, when I was little these two celebrations were held on two different Sundays but certainly since my ordination we’ve celebrated them as one Feast.
There’s wonderful human-ness about combining these two ideas. First we see the crowds exuberantly cheering Jesus on as the Messiah coming to rescue them and establish God’s kingdom in which they (the Jewish people) would be the new top dogs and the hated Romans would be driven from the land. And yet within three days they are screaming for his blood and demanding that he be crucified.
Isn’t there an element of that in each of us? One minute we’re feeling deep devotion and swearing everlasting fidelity to the Lord and then we find ourselves doing things and thinking things and behaving in a way that is completely opposed to God’s way of acting and thinking. We don’t do it deliberately, it just sort of happens. I think that’s what we see in the change in the crowds between Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as they cheer him and Good Friday morning when they demand his death. They allowed Jesus’ enemies to manipulate them and they allowed themselves be convinced that their hero was in fact a threat to their way of life and their religion.
And that’s the point: they allowed themselves to be convinced. They weren’t forced and neither are we. When we turn away from God and from what we know He would want us to do there may be all sorts of factors at work in us. We may indeed feel threatened - by lack of resources; by pressure from others to ‘be like everyone else;’ by ambition for ourselves or those close to us; by hopelessness. But in the end we have to accept responsibility for our actions. It is we who are doing these things.
It’s hard to stand out, to be different, to take a stand for what we know to be right and yet that is what the disciples of Jesus are called to do day after day. I don’t mean that we all get a soap box and stand on a street corner and rant and rave at passers-by. But we do need to stand up for our values in family gatherings and in our neighborhoods and our workplaces and in the various groups to which we belong. There can’t be room for “everyone does it,” or “no one will notice,” or just this once” or whatever.
As we begin this sacred week, recalling the Savior’s Passion and Death, let’s not forget that each of us participates by our carelessness, our selfishness, our cowardice, our anger, our greed - all those elements which move us away from God and from each other. But let’s not allow that to sadden us, but rather keep our eyes on the love that drove Jesus to endure it all - a love which forgives all and welcomes all.