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Reflection For Palm Sunday

Teresa, associate from British Columbia.

Okay, here it goes. Please remember II asked for this Sunday. I thought Palm Sunday would be interesting (and easy) to write a Reflection for, but I was mistaken. I have probably written and rewritten this Reflection in my head over a thousand (yes I do tend to exaggerate) times since I asked for this day to reflect upon. But this is it, The WEDNESDAY BEFORE Palm Sunday. I cannot procrastinate anymore, I must just write it all down.

Firstly, I remembered that in my childhood the Passion wasn’t part of Psalm Sunday. Yes this is true, before 1969 it was typical practice to read a passion narrative on the Sunday prior, and then celebrate Palm Sunday as a day in itself to kick off Holy Week. This was done as a reform of Vatican II to recover Lent and Holy Week. It was primarily about recovering the church’s mission of disciplining people in the way of Jesus, and to realign our worship practices to support that mission. Beginning in 387 and continuing to the sixth century Lent started being used for another purpose, one of fasting and penitence with constant reminders of the sufferings of Jesus along the way. Lent was no longer about disciplining others in the way of Jesus, but rather about trying to discipline ourselves for our sins if only for these forty days. It was this medieval practice of Lent, disconnected from any serious effort to disciple newcomers or others in the way of Jesus that continued to inform Lenten lectionaries and practices in the West until Vatican II. Interesting stuff, I wasn’t sure about why things had changed since I was a child I just knew that they had. It was in thinking about Psalm Sunday: the entire Hosanna’s, palm waving, and joy and Jesus on a donkey riding triumphantly; to this following poem by Ann Weems.

Between Parades

We’re good at planning!
Give us a task force
​And a project​
And we are off and running
No trouble at all!
Going to the village and finding the colt,
Even negotiating with the owners
Is right down our alley.
And how we love a parade!
In a frenzy of celebration
We gladly focus on Jesus
And generously throw our coats
And palms in his path.
And we can shout praise
Loudly enough
To make the Pharisees complain.
It’s all so good!

It’s between parades that
We don’t do so well
From Sunday to Sunday
We forget our hosannas’
Between parades
The stones will have to shout
Because we don’t.

Now that is powerful. I could have probably stopped there, and reflected on why we don’t shout more Hosannas’, why we don’t spread the Joy, the absolute JOY of Jesus, and how he lived his life! But I couldn’t stop. There is more to this day, so much more.

My friend Jean Allen talks about how throughout the Old Testament, God kept telling his people that burnt offerings and sacrifices were not what pleased him. What pleased him were love, mercy compassion and humble hearts. Jesus lived that life, and we are called to live that way too.

And so we arrive at the Passion. No more adoring crowds, just pain, torture and loneliness. I read a book recently that has profoundly impacted me. You know those great books that you can’t put down, that you savour every word of, ponder phrases, and write out passages of…that kind of book. It is called Shantaram and is by Gregory David Roberts. The book opens with the following passage:

“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realised, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.”

I have read, reread, mediated upon and shared this passage again and again. It speaks to me of the humanness of Jesus, how he felt the pain and forgave. It challenges me to forgive those who hurt and wound me. It compels me to look again and again on how Jesus lived his life and how I am to live mine. It is simple---just forgive. Yet it is the hardest for me to do.

So what have I learned, what do I want to share most with you? I return to the book again and this passage:

“The truth is that there are no good men, or bad men,” he said. “It is the deeds that have goodness or badness in them. There are good deeds, and bad deeds. Men are just men-it is what they do, or refuse to do, that links them to good and evil. The truth is that an instant of real love, in the heart of anyone-the noblest man alive or the most wicked-has the whole purpose and process and meaning of life with in its passion. The truth is that we are all, every one of us, every atom, every galaxy and every particle of matter in the universe, moving toward God”

So that is what I leave with you, there is joy and there is pain in every life. Jesus asks us to choose Love always.


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