Palm Sunday

by Rev. Mark Connolly

I think all of us have different and fond memories concerning Palm Sunday. I think if we were to ask many of the people reading this article what memories they have of Palm Sunday, many of them would recall going home from Church carrying a similar piece of palm. Others would recall when they were children they had little pieces of palm made in the form of a cross and these were placed in the lapels of their coats or placed on their dresses or sweaters to make them aware of what Palm Sunday was all about.

Sad to say, this custom, like so many other customs in the Church, seems to have lost a lot of its popularity. So that Palm Sunday will give us an insight into the Holy Week we are about to celebrate, I would ask you to reflect for a few moments on the meaning of Palm Sunday as it applies to you.

I think if you are really going to grasp the meaning of Palm Sunday, you must realize one fact - that you who are suffering at this moment, you who are in any kind of pain whatsoever - can never forget that Christ has already undergone and sustained the pain that you are now enduring. If there is anything that Palm Sunday should remind every one of us is that you should identify your agony with the agony of Christ during that first Holy Week. A piece of palm, even though it might have lost its symbolism, has a definite meaning in your Christian way of living. This is the most holy week of the year for you. It is the most important for it was the most important in the life of Christ. It is to teach you who are in pain, anguish or suffering, that you are not suffering in vain, definitely not suffering alone. You are suffering for and with Christ.

That is why a little piece of palm, even though it might not be as popular a religious experience as it once was, should and does mean a lot . This is the meaning of Palm Sunday.

What is the lesson we should keep in mind concerning Palm Sunday? We know it is the beginning of the holiest week of the Church year. We know it is the holiest week of our year on this earth. One thing, however, that we should keep in mind is the attitude of Christ. I think the last thing you would want would be what Christ went through that first holy week, from Palm Sunday onwards. He knew he was to go through a type of ordeal that was to be uniquely painful. But, if you recall this and put yourself in his place, anticipating a major type of operation, I think the last thing you would want would be a procession, or a parade, or someone shouting accolades such as "hosanna" or "blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" or alleluias of all kinds.

And yet, Christ went through this and more. What do we learn from this? Even though Christ knew what was ahead of him, he forgot himself and showed an extraordinary amount of generosity towards those who were with him. He put himself at their service even though he was going through great mental pain and torture. That spirit of service, that spirit of generosity, must be ours if we are to enter fully into all the magnificent things that will be ours during the coming Holy Week.

I ask you once again to reflect on the piece of palm, that you receive in Church, made in the form of a cross. It is a reminder to you of Christ's and your triumph over pain. It is a reminder of Christ's and your triumph over despair. It is a reminder to you and to Christ of his victory over death. With these thoughts, the coming weeks cannot only be the holiest week for you - it can be one of the happiest. May God bless you!

From the Breastplate of Saint Patrick

March 17

Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From everyone who wishes me ill
Afar and anear
Alone and in a multitude.

copyright © 1999-2005, Spirituality for Today