Palm Sunday: Triumph, Hope and Betrayal Sunday April 5,2020
It is somehow fitting that Holy Week for Christians(April 5th Palm Sunday through Easter April 12th) falls in the midst of this tragic global Coronavirus-covid-19 Pandemic. And Passover for the Jewish Community also comes in this week, on April 9th. Both events speak to us of struggle, faith,love and ultimately triumph in the midst of tragedy. They speak to us of HOPE, and hope is what we most need in the midst of this pandemic leaving fear and death in its wake, although we hear less about the many who are getting the virus and living through it.
We need to hear those stories too for they give hope while somehow many feel betrayed that life as they knew it is now radically changed, our world is turned upside down- by a virus. One of our beloved elders here, Jack,90, a married retired priest still volunteering in the hospital, suddenly could not breathe. He was diagnosed with the COVID19 virus, hospitalized and sent home. They said he had a “non-lethal strain”. He is doing well two weeks after. Yet a 39 year old radio personality in our community got the virus and died within one week leaving a wife and young child. Another family man in his middle years is slowly getting better as is his teenage son. What is scary is that it is so unpredictable.
Some seek someone to blame for this and scapegoat others and even blame God because we feel helpless-even powerless. We no longer have the illusion that we can control everything.(And I will leave it to you to discover if there is an upside to this as you place your trust in God even when pain and death will inevitably happen despite our sense of control and power). Meaningful routine is lost, jobs are lost, schools are closed, families are separated at the most poignant of times,we can not actually touch one another or gather for anything. Those who found enjoyment in sports no longer have them to attend or to watch on TV and those who love to gather cannot do so. We cannot even have religious services together-even in Holy Week. While there are ways that we can still be in virtual and distant community,and show love and caring creatively as in communicating with loved ones through Nursing Home windows, and have virtual religious services using zoom and social media,we miss our joint worship, our hugs and simply being together. We are also seeing the many ways people can show love and that is heartening. Yet, fear and this sense of betrayal and even abandonment accompanies pandemics even as they accompanied the original events of Holy week as best we know them.
While most of us may not blame God or anyone else, we are wondering “where is God?” as we go through this on a huge global scale. Yet, it was for this hurting world that Jesus kept on going after Palm Sunday to the Cross. On Palm Sunday Jesus rode through Jerusalem on the back of a donkey(hardly the Cadillac or Mercedes of the times) and the common people cheered him on with shouts of Hosanna (Save us) and waving palm branches, threw their cloaks on the ground to make an easy path for him. It was a brief moment of joyful triumph though he knew what would be ahead. The crowds, full of ordinary people, including many poor and sick and outcast that he had healed,included, and helped,showed their thanks and love and hope for his reign. They didn’t understand that his reign was not to be a political one where the enemy would be overthrown and vanquished. They knew they loved him. This must have felt really good, but Jesus also knew that their love would include betrayal(Judas, his disciple would sell him for money) and denial ( even by Peter who had for a moment “gotten” who he was-“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” ), and abandonment by the disciples, and most of the crowd. He too wondered where is my beloved Abba God,as he was left alone, brutally beaten, scoffed, jeered at and in the worst physical pain. The emotional pain of betrayal may have been just as great. Pope Francis said in his Palm Sunday homily that when there is love and trust betrayal is the worst that can happen. Yet, Jesus love for us got him through it. Wow!!
Jesus experienced the worst pain at every level. Physically- talk about not being able to breathe in the throes of the coronavirus- nailed to the cross arms splayed out and hands and feet nailed, he could not breathe. And while his mother and the women and maybe one of the disciples followed as close as they could most of the disciples were nowhere to be seen and he faced the cross alone. He talked to His Father and quoted the Psalm about being abandoned by God, though in his native Aramaic this may have also meant, “I have fulfilled my destiny”. Simply, he faced an ugly death head on and kept on moving forward. To rise again in three days as he forecasted, to break the bonds of death, to bring us eternal life, he had to die even as we do, and it was anything but an easy death. We can now turn to him who knew suffering to know our suffering and to be with us in it, so we do not have to ever be alone. We marvel how great was his love, how great was God’s love. For Easter, we will focus on life and be glad. Thank God for Easter, it makes all the difference.
Yet,for Palm Sunday for a brief moment we focus on the triumph of his ministry, how he reached the people no one cared about with love and how he took on anything and anyone who lost the meaning of “love your neighbor as yourself”. The Gospels say Jesus was hung between two revolutionaries, also called thieves. Indeed he was a revolutionary of the best kind,taking on the powers that be and showing the power of God’s love, making everything new again by his death and resurrection. For Holy Week we focus on what lies ahead for Jesus and we cringe for him and for ourselves even as we recognize within ourselves the lack of fidelity to love. we too go through our Good Fridays to get to Easter. And he is there with us too with the promise of life. Wow!
For a look at Palm sunday’s past and the meditations of three women priests you can visit my earlier blog:
Have a blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week
Pastor Judy Lee
Rev.Dr. Judith Lee,RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community