Let me tell you a “secret”. I much prefer movies & plays that are comedy, or romantic comedy. Nancy tells me that I enjoy any movie where the guy and the gal get together at the end… I do not generally groove on disaster movies, horror movies or heavy drama…
That said, then you can probably understand then why I really do not like Palm Sunday and Holy Week. In this week we read through the passion Gospel several times. And no matter how many times I hear that story I am always affected by it. I am bothered and disturbed.
And all the more so on Palm Sunday when we live through the drastic shift and contrast from the first reading at the Blessing of Palms where Jesus is proclaimed king and brought into the city with the adulation of crowds laying down palm beaches and proclaiming him the son of David; and then move to the account of his betrayal by Judas, arrest, the apostles fleeing, his mock trial, crucifixion and death.
It is a stressful and gory week – especially if we get caught up in the details. What I see being portrayed in the Gospel is a microcosm of all the pain and suffering of humanity. The various ways we human beings knowingly and unknowingly inflict pain on one another’s lives and the varied ways in we experience suffering.
Our life can, and often does, change direction in seconds and can go from relative joy to deep pain in a heartbeat.
For the Gospel to have meaning for us it is not enough to be a story of way back then, it must be our story also. It seems to me that the events of our yearly commemoration of holy week contain elements and shadows of the pain most of us find in human life. We may avoid this story and the services of Holy Week BECAUSE it is our story and reminds us all too graphically of aspects of our life we might prefer to ignore, forget or pretend did not exist.
The calendar and our faith tells us that holy week turns into Easter whether we observe it or not. So it seems so easy for us to rush through Palm Sunday and fast forward to Easter avoiding all of the mess in between – betrayal, abandonment, unjust systems, cruelty, physical pain, and death.
But if we avoid all that – the result is that we do not hear and are not reminded of the ways in which God is present even in the midst of that pain, sadness, and suffering. Present, not as the cause, or as the one to blame for it all – but present as a loving, caring, supportive presence with us.
Present as one we can hold on to; As one to whom we can cry in despair –
the one who walks with us; and inspires and strengthens others to walk with us as well.
The passion Gospels show us what courage looks like, and that in being who God created us and calls us to be, we are able to endure and overcome even as our life takes these hairpin turns, or we face fearsome obstacles. That we can successfully cope with even the worst that we fear. They we can find healing even where there is no cure.
A very wise friend told me of a writer who when asked to sum up the Christian message in one word said “And”. Our faith, especially in this Lenten/Easter season reminds us that there is joy AND sorrow;
there is laughter AND tears,
there is life AND death in all aspects of our life – our past, our present and our future. We need to live in, respond to and remember the AND.
Between Paul Sunday and Easter we commemorate, remember and live the AND of Christianity and allow these events which we commemorate bring us that which we need the most – HOPE.