Palm Sunday | Year A

Posted on March 31, 2023 View all Gospel Reflection

At a small Protestant church during the dramatic reading of the Passion narrative, the choir members were supposed to play the role of the crowd and shout, “Crucify, crucify him!”

“I don’t want to say that!” said one of the altos. “I don’t want to do this!”

“That’s the whole point,” replied a soprano.

The soprano was right.

We could have joined in the crowd that day, and we could be tempted to join it tomorrow.

[Passion Sunday: We betray Jesus for far less than was offered to Judas. by Stephanie Perdew, March 8, 2022, The Christian Century].

In the Sixth Station of the Cross, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus with her veil.

While Father Michael Renninger, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia was a college student on his way home one weekend, Renninger stopped to visit his grandparents. They lived in the same row house in Philadelphia he had known growing up. His grandfather had a series of strokes that left him paralyzed on one side and unable to talk or swallow. His grandmother was determined to take care of him at home, even though he required a feeding tube.

On that day, Renninger recalled, he opened the squeaky front door and immediately knew things were not right. The goopy liquid food was splattered all over his grandfather, whose face was red. His grandmother was struggling to care for him when she realized their grandson had entered the house. The college student started to leave, assuming he didn’t need to walk into this embarrassing situation.

Then he heard his grandmother’s stern voice: “Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare leave. Sometimes this is what love looks like.”

[Why we must not look away in the current crisis, by Mark Wingfield, July 23, 2020].

Veronica and the grandmother are right.

Similarly Jim Finely shared how Thomas Merton, at the Abbey of Gethsemani, helped him:

“When I went in to see Merton for direction, I was eighteen years old, I was just out of high school. Because of my trauma history I had this issue with authority figures. So when I went in to try to talk to him, I hyperventilated; I had a hard time breathing. And he said to me, “What’s going on?” I told him, my voice was shaking, and I said, “I’m scared because you’re Thomas Merton.”

I can remember being so ashamed, because I wanted him to think well of me. . . . He said to me something that really was a turning point in my life. . . . I worked at the pig barn at the time. . . . He said, “Under obedience, every day after afternoon work, before vespers, I want you to come here every day and sit down and tell me one thing that happened at the pig barn each day.”. . .

I remember thinking to myself, “I can do that.” And it leveled the playing field. . . . Just two men sitting in a room, talking about daily work. And he became a father figure for me.

I learned a big lesson, which later really was to affect me in my own therapy and as a therapist, that when you risk sharing what hurts the most in the presence of someone who will not invade you or abandon you, you can learn not to invade or abandon yourself…. you can discover within yourself what Jesus called the pearl of great price [Matthew 13:46], your invincible preciousness in the midst of your fragility.

[Wounded Healers: A Mutual Vulnerability, The Center for Action and Contemplation, September 16th, 2020.

Thomas Merton was right. And the pigs. And the donkey that Jesus rode in on.

“Jesus, I can be stubborn; take my donkey’s reins!!”