Palm Sunday 2020
Every Palm Sunday we begin the Mass with a Gospel story of Jesus who is a welcomed hero making his way into Jerusalem. As Jesus enters the city, Jesus is greeted by crowds who spread their cloaks on the ground, waving and throwing branches at his feet. They shout “Hosanna” (“save us” in Hebrew), praising Jesus and foreshadowing his act of self-sacrificing on the cross. We can easily imagine the crowds of people, shouting in anticipation of what this Mighty King will do for them. A celebratory spirit abounds. And yet, we hear how quickly this joy turns to anger; celebration turns to rage; life turns to death. What happened to this hero’s welcome…?
Today we want Jesus. We want Him to be present to us. As Christians, He is an integral part of our lives. And now, in these current times, our traditional way of celebrating Him has temporarily changed. For this year, we are not privy to our beautiful Holy Week celebrations; the hard work of preparing and welcoming our worship spaces for Easter. For the past three weeks, we have been stripped from what we know so well: our opportunity for weekly worship; reception of Communion; even our ability to go into our churches and sit before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer taken away from us. We want Jesus present to us in our traditional and familiar ways. However, in these unprecedented times, isolation, social distancing and no gatherings has made us look at things from a different perspective. Therefore, we could ask ourselves, “are we present to Jesus?”
During these difficult time of covid 19, we could consider those who share in what we are experiencing all the time. Look at the people in Northern Canada, parts of Asia, the outback of Australia and the Amazon, where people go for week, months or longer without Eucharist. In desperation we want ‘drive in church’ or ‘drive through confessions,’even though we are told to stay home! We want it the way it was. We want Jesus present to us, sacramentally.
Perhaps we need to look at our current situation in a different light or as a ‘new opportunity’? Instead of Jesus being present to us, what about us being present to Jesus? What about acknowledging the Christ within the heart? For sure, that’s not as easy as going to church. Or to recognize the Christ in the heart of others? This is a bit easier, for it is being done all around us. Look at the beautiful experiences we see on social media. People, who carry the Christ within their hearts ministering to others in this most difficult of times. The clerk at the grocery stores, the medical staff, those who call to check in on us, those who want to contribute to the parish coffers knowing that little money is coming in. Those who stay at home (Step up and not out) in order to help bring this virus to an end.
This is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. As a diocese, we are invited to celebrate with our bishop these importance celebrations by means of ‘live streaming’ (see our website and Facebook page for information). But what if we do not have that luxury? Take times during these holy days and keep them sacred. Ponder, reflect pray scripture Thurs at 7 (Jesus washes feet…service and Eucharist); Friday at 3 (Passion) and Saturday/Easter Sunday (Creation and Resurrection). An opportunity to unite ourselves with those throughout the world that have no priests to preside at these Liturgies. Yes our Lent and Easter looks very different this year but this is an experience that we will never forget and a unique opportunity to be present to Jesus.
Regardless to our current circumstances, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus has not and never will abandoned us! Jesus is ALWAYS WITH US. Because of critical health measures, this sacred time looks very different to what we are accustomed to. Perhaps we need to return to the beginning of Lent to the Gospel from Matthew? Jesus said to his followers, “when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray in private….” Well, we are ‘in our rooms,’ and the ‘doors are shut…’ and now ‘we pray’ (Mt 6).
The Passion invites us to be prayerful, self-reflective, it also challenges us to examine the heart, to examine how we are present to Jesus during these extraordinary times. Jesus was welcomed as a hero and murdered as a criminal… all because of God’s great love for us. This weekend’s Gospel concludes with, “So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone” (Mt 27:66). Even though we feel isolated or “sealed off” from Jesus, may we take comfort that Jesus rose from the tomb two thousand years ago and ever since, he is still with us… no matter what! Amen.