It is a day that takes us from soaring joy to the depths of sorrow.
Palm Sunday begins with chants of Hosanna as Jesus arrives in Jerusalem amid a triumphant crowd. Two thousand years on, we join with that throng as we clutch our palms and turn toward the entrance procession.
The celebratory mood quickly shifts, however, as we listen to Isaiah offer a stark foreshadowing of what Jesus is soon to face.
And then, the poignant psalm response: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The lengthy Passion narrative opens with Judas’ betrayal, followed by the demonstration of a stunning lack of self-awareness on the part of the disciples, who cannot fathom that perceived threats to their own safety and wellbeing will soon cause them to deny the man they call Lord.
In the midst of such dramatic details comes the simple beauty of the phrases, “Take; eat; this is my Body” and “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
What follows is burned on our hearts: the denials, the mock trial, the derision, and finally the brutal, ghastly death. But all the brutal, shameful details lead us back to the paschal meal Jesus shared with his apostles and continues to share with us today.
As the centurion cries after Jesus dies on the cross, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
And so, the question becomes one of where we can be found as the Passion progresses. If we are willing to join in with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we must also stay and see the story through.
But are we the naysayers who deny our faith in a time when organized religion – and simple faith – are frequently mocked? Do we sit in judgment, forgetting that we are to see the face of the divine in all? Are we lacking in any firm principles, going with the majority because we are afraid of taking a stand on our own?
Or are we like the women at the tomb and Joseph of Arimathea, who remain not only loyal but also loving, motivated by a deep and profound faith grounded in the knowledge that Christ offers his body and blood for us, then and now?
On a day that moves from triumph to grief, as we await the return to triumph, we are called to question.
-Catherine Mulroney, Editor of Living with Christ, Canada’s companion to praying and living the Eucharist.