March 25, Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday

The reading for Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday are Mark 11.1-11 or John 12.12-16; Psalm 118.1-2, 19-29; Isaiah 50.4-9; Psalm 31.916 Philippians 2.1-11; Mark 14.1-15.47 or Mark 15.1-47.

There is little to be said about these passages that has not be said a zillion times.  The decision to squeeze the reading for Palm Sunday and the Passion into a single Sunday was necessitated by certain cultural realities (e.g. fewer and fewer people following the traditional Triduum {Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, & Easter morning}) required the compression of the Passion story into Palm Sunday or risk a liturgical leap from the triumphal entry to the triumphal resurrection without any mention of the agony and bloody sweat of the Cross.  Sadly, I sometimes fear it does not work as we hope.  No matter our liturgical jujitsu, many miss the connection of the agonizing stories of Holy Week to the life of faith and instead experience and incorporate into their faith narrative the bookends of ascending triumph (Hosanna in the highest and He is risen).  There is, in this scenario, no pain or sacrifice associated with faith and religion becomes a series of motivational homilets designed to affirm our triumphal status in the world.  I worry about this.

It is only through realizing the agony and the bloody sweat of the Cross that I can God reaching to me in the moments of my own despair or hopelessness:

Psalm 31.9-24

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away.

11 I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror to my neighbours,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
terror all around!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, ‘You are my God.’
15 My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
16 Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.
17 Do not let me be put to shame, O Lord,
for I call on you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go dumbfounded to Sheol.
18 Let the lying lips be stilled
that speak insolently against the righteous
with pride and contempt.

21 Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was beset as a city under siege.
22 I had said in my alarm,
‘I am driven far from your sight.’
But you heard my supplications
when I cried out to you for help.

23 Love the Lord, all you his saints.
The Lord preserves the faithful,
but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.

I pray you embrace the fullness of Holy Week and all of the liturgical offerings available to you wherever you are.