Passion (Palm) Sunday
March 28, 2021
Mark 14: 1- 15: 47, [or shorter form Mark 15: 1-39]
By Rev. John Tran
“I’ve been there” is such an interesting phrase. It means ‘I understand how you feel because I’ve had that experience myself.’ It is also interesting that a state of mind or heart (I’ve been there) can be spoken of as if it were a place. However, sorrow, pain, or grief are like a place. After all we live in it. But, we need not stay there for ever. We also pass through it.
Our liturgy today takes us to fearful places: Gethsemane, a place of sorrow and abandonment; Calvary, a place of suffering; Golgotha, a place of death. And the story we hear there is filled with paradox. The apostles love Jesus, and yet they betray and abandon him. They cannot even watch one hour with him. Jesus suffering is agonizing, degrading, and humiliating, yet it brings redemption. These paradoxes are part of our life too. Gethsemane, Calvary, Golgotha are all places we know first hand. Our pilgrimage of faith takes us to those places.
Still, it all begins with a procession and a spirit of anticipation. As St. Andrew of Crete points out about Jesus on Palm Sunday: “He does not come in pomp and circumstance, like a man ascending a throne...He is meek and humble, and goes poorly clad.” Yet he is on his way to be glorified, but to be glorified by the Wood of the Cross.
Olive or palm branches, or whatever we carry and wave on Palm Sunday in remembrance of the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, are not the important part; the point is not what we have in our hands. The point is the procession. The Benedictine, Father Adrian Nocent, has noted: “the important thing is not the palms themselves, but the procession in which they are carried” as part of a journey, Jesus' journey, our journey. Our liturgy sees the procession as Christ’s journey, together with his people, to Calvary and to the great act of redemption. Even if we don't have a literal procession, we process through the liturgy and the scripture, we process through our own lives as we journey toward Jesus Christ, his Father, and his Spirit.
When we take the blessed palm home after Mass and put it behind a picture or crucifix, what does it mean? Is it just another year gone, another Holy Week passed? But rather, perhaps it says, “yes, I have been there,” and I also believe in Christ's triumph. We are on the way to Easter. While we experience places of suffering on our journey with Christ, all these places are the way and means of redemption. Our glorification comes through the Wood of the Cross. Can it be any different from the glorification of our Savior?