Ask any Catholic about Palm Sunday, and two things will probably come to mind – the look, smell, and feel of palm branches, and the long Gospel reading of the Passion of Jesus. (The former has kept many a small pair of hands busy during the latter!)
The liturgy of Palm Sunday is a mood-swing of emotions. It begins with the distribution and blessing of palm leaves. Our church is usually festooned with larger branches in the sanctuary. The lovely greens contrast with the red banners hung from ceiling to floor. We begin with the gospel story of Jesus’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. He’s welcomed with waving branches and a joyous chorus of Hosannas. Ah, all is well.
But moments later we stand for the reading of the Passion. Today, it was from the Gospel of Matthew. The familiar story is usually narrated by several readers and the priest. We listen to the betrayal of Judas. We are there at the Passover meal, the last supper of Jesus. We are with him in the heart-wrenching hours in Gethsemane. His disciples pledge their loyalty, yet are unable to even stay awake with him. We then witness the arrest, trials, and his horrible death on a cross.
We go from a celebrity`s grand entrance into a bustling city, to a common criminal`s execution on its outskirts. It`s a sad, solemn story. Yet, it`s one that we must experience at its deepest before we can celebrate the joys of Easter.
And, so we enter into Holy Week…