Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord Reflection by Fr. Rex Pillai
Today is Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. We gather to remember the passion of Jesus. We call this week the Holy Week. In Judaism, the cluster of holy days that includes Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is often called the “Days of Awe.” In that span of time Jews observe many of their most sacred festivals, quite similar to Holy Week. These are our days of awe. Nowhere else in the Christian calendar do we recall all the central mysteries of our faith in such a short period of time as we do this week. From Passion Sunday to Easter Sunday, we stand in awe of what God has done for us and what we have done to God.
Jesus begins his own entry to Jerusalem like any other pilgrim. He organizes his own parade into the city that will put him to death. However, it does not take too long for things to change for Jesus. The cross looms. He enters the city of his execution in the midst of song and excitement. People recognize that Jesus has come to Jerusalem in God’s name, and they shout, “Hosanna.” But the crowd will soon turn against him. It is puzzling.
How much difference can a week make? For some it does not make a big difference. However, for Jesus this week will contain all of suffering, violence, life and death, passion and betrayal, hope and despair, crucifixion and resurrection. It is a week, in which so much will happen and so much will change for Jesus and for the world.
As we begin Holy Week, let us take time to look at our lives and ask what Jesus asks of us. During this week, the Church invites us to enter into the powerful liturgies that would recall and relive the central mysteries of our faith. As we do so, we are only too aware how senseless suffering and violence continue to inflict so much pain and in the process disfigure so many people for life. There are people who can feel their wounds. For most people, as it was for the disciples, the period between Passion Sunday and Easter Sunday lasts much longer than a week. There are questions about our lives and our world; we have uncertainty and fears about the future, safety, and security of our loved ones. Preoccupation with our own sickness and death often make Jesus’ suffering and death seem so long ago and far away. We feel the overwhelming contrast between our very noisy, uncertain and violent world and the quiet of the tomb.
But death is not merely something that happens to us at the end of life. Death happens in many and varied ways in the midst of life. The German theologian J. Moltman made this point movingly in an Easter sermon when he said, “Death is an evil power now, in life’s very midst. It is the economic death of the person we allow to starve; the political death of the people that are oppressed; the social death of the handicapped; the noisy death that strikes through bombs and torture, and the soundless death of the apathetic soul.”
The challenge this week placed before us is to understand human pain and suffering in relation to Jesus’ resurrection. This means, like God did, we too must play our part in protesting against the senseless violence and suffering that we sometimes accept so readily as inevitable. As Christians, we make our protest against death in the midst of life in the power of the Resurrection. Jesus did not raise himself; he was raised by God. This gives hope to millions of people who want that miracle repeated in the midst of life. These days are indeed “days of awe.”