Little Johnny was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from church with his mother. His father returned from church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked, “Why do you have that palm branch, dad?” “You see, when Jesus came into town, everyone waved palm branches to honor him; so we got palm branches today.” “Aw, shucks,” grumbled Little Johnny. “The one Sunday I can’t go to church, and Jesus shows up!”
The Church celebrates today as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. It is on Palm Sunday that we enter Holy Week, welcoming Jesus into our lives, asking him to allow us a share in his suffering, death and resurrection. This is the time of the year when we stop to remember and relive the events which brought about our redemption and salvation. The Holy Week liturgies present us with the actual events of the dying and rising of Jesus. These liturgies enable us to experience in our lives here and now what Jesus went through then. In other words, what we commemorate and relive during this week is not just Jesus’ dying and rising, but our own dying and rising in Him, which result in our healing, reconciliation, and redemption.
An interesting as well as challenging old fable tells of the colt that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday. The colt thought that the reception was organized to honor him. “I am a unique donkey,” this excited animal might have thought. When he asked his mother if he could walk down the same street alone the next day and be honored again, his mother said, “No, you are nothing without Him who was riding you.” Five days later, the colt saw a huge crowd of people in the street. It was Good Friday, and the soldiers were taking Jesus to Calvary. The colt could not resist the temptation of another royal reception. Ignoring the warning of his mother, he ran to the street, but he had to flee for his life as soldiers chased him and people stoned him. Thus the colt finally learned the lesson that he was only a poor donkey without Jesus to ride on him. As we enter Holy Week, today’s readings challenge us to examine our lives to see whether we carry Jesus within us and bear witness to him through our living or whether we are Christians in name only.
Are we ready to become like the humble donkey that carried Jesus? As we “carry Jesus” to the world, we can expect to receive the same welcome that Jesus received on Palm Sunday, but we must also expect to meet the same opposition, crosses and trials later. Like the donkey, we are called upon to carry Christ to a world that does not know Him. Let us always remember that a Christian without Christ is a contradiction in terms. Such a one betrays the Christian message. Hence let us become transparent Christians during this Holy Week, enabling others to see in us Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness and sacrificial service.
Can we face these questions on Palm Sunday? Are we willing to follow Jesus, not just to church but in our daily life? Are we willing to entrust ourselves to him even when the future is frightening or confusing, believing God has a plan? Are we willing to serve him until that day when his plan on earth is fulfilled?