Branches of palms or olive trees are ancient symbols of victory, hope, as well as new life. Our procession from the Gym to the Church symbolically represents Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem overflowed with praise and excitement, as they, and now we, wave these triumphant branches and proclaim our blessings. Yet in a few days they, and we, will cry out, ”Crucify Him!” The crowds change of heart illustrates the problem of holding God to our expectations. I wonder if we too sometimes go through the motions of publicly demonstrating our faith and somehow fall short of practicing what we preach.
The crowd, that day, expected a liberating, powerful, earthly ruler. Repeatedly Jesus has told them that His Kingdom was unlike any earthly one. They wanted freedom from their Roman occupiers and instead He promised freedom from their sins and human death, through resurrection. Jesus gives them the ultimate sign by taking up His Cross and now inviting them the do likewise when the time and situation presents itself to them. They failed to see that through His death and resurrection He indeed was being a liberator but not from those oppressing Romans! It was in this lack of understanding that the crowd’s mood swiftly changes to anger and the palms branches of victory become whips of anger and disappointment. As we begin Holy Week let our prayers, celebrations, and festivities lead us to a closer relationship with Our Lord who suffered and died for our freedom from sin and death. Keep this week holy and you will not regret it, but spiritually benefit from it and all that takes place.
Our ancient celebration of the church should be solemn and should begin at church and continue at home. Take some blessed palms home and display them where they will be a constant reminder of Jesus as our savior and liberator. Each time you see these palms perhaps take a moment to recall the Hosanna’s that we proclaimed as well as the cry to crucify Him that we chanted. If you live alone maybe reread the Passion narrative from your Bible, pausing to take in the beauty of what may seem to be horrific if you forget how the story ends...with resurrection. If you know someone who was not able to attend our Palm Sunday liturgy, consider bringing them some blessed palms on our behalf. We celebrated the beginning of Holy Week may we return to continue with Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter-Vigil Sunday.