Rejoice! Blessed is the One who comes…Two Roman Catholic Women Priests reflect on Palm Sunday
Churches all over the world will be adorned in palm branches this Sunday commemorating the joyful entry of Jesus into Jerusalem seated on the back of a donkey. In our church as in many Roman Catholic and other churches, people will gather,carrying palms and singing Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest, as was done for the first time by the crowd welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. Here we present my Palm Sunday reflections along with that of Rev. Chava Redonnet of Oscar Romero Mission Church in Rochester, New York.
This year the Gospel of Luke 19:28-40 will be read and we will see Jesus enacting the prophecy about the coming of Zion’s ruler in Zechariah 9:9-10. “Rejoice in heart and soul….Shout with gladness daughter of Jerusalem! Look! Your ruler comes to you: victorious and triumphant, humble, riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”(TIB) The NAB translation of this verse read: “Shout for joy…See, your king shall come to you; a just savior he is, meek and riding on the foal of an ass”. The Peshitta (Near Eastern translation from Jesus’ Aramaic) reads “…he is righteous and a Savior, lowly and riding…upon a colt, the foal of an ass”. The fulfillment of this prophecy about the Messiah is why Jesus sent his disciples to get the colt he would ride on into Jerusalem. To ride on a donkey in that age was more a sign of humiliation than royalty, for only the poor rode on donkeys. Royalty rode on fine horses or in transport pulled by powerful steeds. So, here is Jesus the king of the poor and outcast, for he had loved them, healed them, taught them and won their hearts, now welcomed by them with great joy. They spread their cloaks on the ground before him and the “whole multitude of his disciples”praised God for the mighty things they had seen. They shouted “Hosanna” which means “Save” in Hebrew but is a song of praise. Matthew’s Gospel says “the whole city was stirred up” at his arrival.
The account of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem is in all four Gospels. John’s Gospel (Ch 12) adds that the people recalled the raising of Lazarus and thronged around him. “Look, the whole world has gone after him! (12:19b). In Luke’s (Ch 19) account Jesus was asked by the Pharisees to quiet his disciples. He said that if they were quiet even the stones would cry out! This was a time of acclamation and joy, the universe itself was in accord. I think that the joyful shouts of acclamation filled Jesus’ heart and even for a short while he knew that despite what lied ahead, and he had already predicted that, he had accomplished his mission- the ordinary, the poor, the sick and the outcast along with his other disciples, men and women and children, knew who he was and would carry on his work. This deep knowledge and his always close Abba, Amma God (Papa, Mama) gave him the strength to face what was ahead of him.
And, then as he drew close to Jerusalem , Jesus wept for Jerusalem(Luke 19:41) and the people as they did not accept the prophets before him, or him-“you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you”- and destruction not peace would come to them. The oppressors would win after all in Jerusalem and for this, he wept. Then, he entered the Temple and further enraged the authorities by throwing out the money changers and the sellers of animals, doves and others, for sacrifice. In essence, He set those birds and animals free and put the place where God was supposed to live back into God-perspective. God doesn’t want any form of animal or living sacrifice, God wants lives and hearts full of justice and love for everyone. This is to be a house of prayer! The ensuing parable of the tenants in the vineyard ( Luke 20:1-19) where the owner has to send his son because the others collecting the debt were killed and the son is also killed tells us what will happen next.
On Palm Sunday I like to stop a while and savor the victory with Jesus. Let us take time with Jesus to deeply feel the affirmations of those we have come to serve and of those who love us. Take time to feel the love. Take time to feel the joy of the moment when we too fulfill what we have come to do and when all is well. Do not rush ahead to when the price we pay for living the Gospel and the inevitable troubles of life weigh heavy on us. Jesus’entire ministry is about loving relationship as he shares his loving Abba/Amma God with all around him in his every action and word that says ‘all are welcome, come closer’.
Jesus’ joy was short- lived because his work was not done-he got off that little donkey and kept on going with his actions and his teaching that angered the establishment. I think the strength of the heartfelt Hosannas propelled him on. I also think that it may well have been a different crowd that shouted “crucify him” while his loyal group of lowly folks, lowly like him, lowly like we are, were overwhelmed by the greater powerful interests of the religious establishment and the Roman Oppressors.
The Roman Catholic Liturgy for Palm Sunday really rushes Jesus’ moments of victory as once the palms are placed down, the entire Passion is read for the Gospel (this year Luke 22:14-23;56). Some have explained that because so many of the”faithful” will not attend the events of Holy Week but will return on Easter, this is the only chance to share the events of “Holy Week” that precede Easter with them. How sad, but how human to choose to miss the events of self-emptying on Holy Thursday and the Passion of Christ on Good Friday. How like us to want the joy of Palm Sunday and Easter without a reminder of the inevitable suffering that life has for Jesus, and yes, for all of us. For those of us stricken with major illness or life altering loss this year, and that is real once again for me, and for many in our congregation, and those who work tirelessly for justice and peace when it is so slow to come, the Jesus who weeps for the people and who loves and forgives even from the cross (Luke 23: 34 and 43) is the Jesus who knows and abides with us in suffering. We are not alone, no matter how sad, frightened or frustrated we may become. To me, the rising from the dead makes no sense without the anguish of service and suffering. It is anguish and suffering we rise from , not only after death, but in all of the small deaths that life may bring us. The life given us is blessed by God as good and beautiful from its inception and from our birth. But for so many there is so much difficulty as we proceed to live in the worlds and skins we have been born in. We need a Christ who can understand and be with us in the real world.
Yes, Jesus will be killed in a brutal and slow tortuous way. But even there he will make a statement of victory. When we rely on the English translations from the Greek alone we may miss this shout of victory from the Cross. In Matthew 27:46 we have Jesus saying the Aramaic words “Eli, Eli, L’mana Sabachtani.” In English that is translated “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It is phrased as a question and is taken to mean the abandonment of God. But Aramaic scholar Rocco Errico (Let There Be Light, pp. 12-13) points out, it can also be understood as a declaration: “O God! O God To what (a purpose) You have kept me!” or “O Sustainer, O Sustainer! To what a purpose you have left me.” “Left” does not mean abandoned but it means spared to fulfill an end or destiny”. God never forsook or abandoned Jesus, and God will never forsake us. It is a cry of “I have accomplished it” (Like the “it is finished” in other accounts). The Lamsa version of the Aramaic translates, “for this was my destiny!” In other words, in addition to the words of forgiveness and inclusion (for the thief) from the Cross we have a sense of completion of Jesus’ work -only to be topped by the resurrection! And that indeed is the conclusion of Holy Week and of the holy weeks of our lives-rising from the dead!
Amen to the Victory of Palm Sunday and the Victory of the Cross-God is with us until the end, and will raise us up! Amen!!!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
And now we present Rev. Chava Redonnet’s 2014, Reflection on Palm Sunday.
On Palm Sunday I think of something Dom Helder Camara of Brazil said once,
was the donkey. That’s a lovely image for us as church: to be God-bearers
for each other, bringers of love. We don’t have to be perfect, we don’t
have to get everything right: we can be humble bearers of the love of God.
I guess I was a God-bearer for a man I met this week who remembered the
done on those marches, holding out his arms to me and saying joyfully, “And
YOU were there, TOO!”Another day this week, I met a different man. This other man had cut
himself off from everyone in his life. Everyone he was related to, he spoke
of with anger and disgust. When I asked about God, he said, “There is no
God!” I listened to his litany of anger and rejection, and finally said,
“Sounds like a lonely life.” Tears filled his eyes. This man seemed to me
like a cell without water,unable to connect with anyone around him, not
even God. He didn’t want prayer but I told him I would send good energy his
way. He liked that. Maybe that’s a little crack of openness to love in his
soul. I hope so.Lastly, a story from our Sunday Mass at St Romero’s last week. We were a
very small group. Just as we were about to share Communion, he left the
room, using his telephone. I was surprised but went on,serving communion
and praying, then just waiting for him. Finally he came back. “I just
remembered,” he said. “Jesus said if you’re mad at someone you need to
reconcile before you come to the altar. So I had to call someone and
apologize before I came to communion.”Look for God wherever you are, this week! May we all be God-bearers for
each other, carriers of love and hope. Have a blessed Holy Week.Blessings and love to all,
ChavaOscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph’s House of Hospitality
402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620HAVE A BLESSED PALM SUNDAY!