A Maryknoll Reflection for Palm Sunday

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Sunday, April 2, 2023
Mt 21:1-11 (37) | Is 50:4-7 | Phil 2:6-11 | Mt 26:14—27:66 or 27:11-54

In the otherwise serious season of fasting and spiritual preparation, Palm Sunday is a reprieve, a time of celebration. In less than a week’s time, the crowd will turn on Jesus and He will be brutally executed. But in this brief moment, all is well, and Jesus is received into Jerusalem as the King he is.

Jesus knows what is about to happen—has known for some time. The reader, knowing what lies in wait, can only be astounded that Jesus, who also knows, can act so graciously. How can one eschew resentment knowing that “Hosanna to the Son of David” will turn to “Crucify him!”

In that context it seems less remarkable to us that he enters Jerusalem on an ass, a beast of burden. Jesus chooses the animal specifically and his arrival queues the red carpet treatment, but the red carpet is actually green palm fronds. There are many reasons the ass is chosen, the fulfillment of prophesy being only one.

Jesus, in taking on the weight of the world’s sin, is assuming a heavy burden. The ass is a “workhorse” befitting Jesus who came to serve, not to be served. Donkeys are also known for being stubborn and independent creatures. And while other kings need horses and chariots to promote and signify their statuses, Jesus needs no extra embellishments to receive his due recognition. The fanfare is simple. There is genuine joy, but the observance is not wasteful. Jesus is not repelled by the crowd’s joy and takes it in stride. His example demonstrates how celebration can be plain but compelling.

Lent is not associated with celebration. But on Palm Sunday, we are reminded a week before Easter that there will be a triumph at the end of the long ordeal ahead. The celebration is inseparable from the sacrafice that must precede it.

Likewise, Maryknoll missioners living with marginalized communities in more than 20 low-income countries tell us that these vulnerable nations are coming out of the covid pandemic and finding themselves in a dark moment, facing a triple crisis of debt, climate change, and nature loss. But Maryknoll Lay Missioner Peg Vámosy in El Salvador sees this moment as “an opportunity and a time of hope, because we can transform this reality.”

“We don’t have to return to the normal we left behind,” Vámosy says. Thinking of the parishioners she works with to promote sustainable agricultural practices and environmental awareness in rural El Salvador, Vámosy says, “We can choose a more fertile ground in which to plant the seeds for the harvest that God wills. Let us not close our minds to the poor and vulnerable, let us hear the cry of the poor and the cry of the Earth and work together for our common home, where all have an equal chance at not only survival, but a dignified, meaningful, and fulfilling life.”

Questions for reflection
How do you celebrate joyful moments/milestones?
In what ways can you work with others for Our Common Home?

Mary’s good-bye song
Go forth in peace
Don’t fear the darkness
Your life and ours
Are one in the Lord.
Though you don’t know this road
He walks before you
And waits ahead with open arms
To welcome you.
So lift your eyes
Set down your burden
Make your step light
And greet this day with joy.
You carried the light
And gave to all who met you
And take the same light home.
You live in our hearts
As you live in the love of the Lord.
Wherever you go
You’ll never be alone.
His is the peace
That passes understanding.
His is the way
That leads beyond the dark.
Though we don’t know the road
He walks beside us now
His cloak upon our shoulders
To warm us through the night.
So we leave the land
We’ve come to love
And follow his voice
Under the crisp new stars.
When we are weary
And cannot face the morning
He carries us safely
Within his loving arms.
Wherever we go now
We’re never alone.
Wherever we go now
We’re only going home.

Vicki Armour-Hileman MKLM

Consider walking, cycling, or using public transport to reduce your carbon footprint this week.

Sign a petition to the G20 and IMF to protect the vulnerable and our planet, organized by Jubilee USA Network. Join this call to cancel debt and mobilize grants to support countries struggling to respond to the economic and health impacts of covid-19. https://mogc.info/Jubileepetition

This reflection was published in the 2023 Lenten Reflection Guide: Inspired by Laudato Si’ from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

Featured image: A photo of palm fronds is shown. This reflection for Palm Sunday was originally titled “Ecological Economics” in the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns 2023 Lenten Reflection Guide: Inspired by Laudato Si’. (Alex Perri, Unsplash)

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About the author

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, based in Washington, D.C., is a resource for Maryknoll on matters of peace, social justice and integrity of creation, and brings Maryknoll’s mission experience into U.S. policy discussions. Visit www.maryknollogc.org.