The twin images of humility and royalty combine in Jesus, the King welcomed with palm branches and “Hosannahs, who rides in on a donkey — an ass — on Palm Sunday. Just as the King of Kings models humility, so He offers His Kingship among the humble. There is nothing more humble that sinfulness. And so, we sinners call humbly upon the King, the Messiah, to save us. He answers that call, if we but let Him reign.
How can we take the message of Palm Sunday home?
Palm Sunday introduces Holy Week, with the Passion of Our Lord sung/said in full participation of the congregation. We find ourselves among the crowd who has turned on the King, who rejects Him with cold indifference, preferring the sinner Barabbas.
We leave Mass with the Gospel weighing heavily on our consciences: We rejected the Savior. We preferred sin. We caused His suffering. It is our sins He carries on the Cross. It is our sins which pierce him like the nails and sword. We are the crucifiers.
What do we do with all that when we get home? Well, lunch must be made. We turn back to the busyness of life. And we store all that hard, sad “stuff” somewhere in the recesses of our conscience. Or, we push it away because reflecting on the reality of our individual sins, the sins in our relationships and the social sins in our world are just too much to bear.
We push through our days, and focus on the Holy Week-Easter preparations. Many Catholics do spring cleaning during the first three days of Holy Week, symbolically cleansing our homes as we need to do in our souls.
We make sure everyone has an appropriate Easter outfit, stockings or socks without holes, proper shoes and outer wear, depending on the unpredictable weather. We spend time and money focused on things external.
We also must get the eggs died, shop for the Easter meal, prepare perhaps other crafts for the young children, and buy the goods for the Easter baskets and egg hunt.
It’s a lot to do.
What about the King in Holy Week and beyond?
What we know as Holy Week has various names in other faithful cultures across the world: Sacred and Great Week (Greece), Great Week (Slavic countries), Week of Mourning (Germany), and Week of Salvation (Eastern Churches). Like these names, we are called to holiness, greatness, and mourning, as we await the promise of salvation through the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
How can we honor Holy Week by realizing more fully the greatness to which our Savior calls us?
Humility: What about wearing your regular Sunday clothes, and sacrifice special new “looking good” clothes this Easter?
Sacrifice: What special sacrifices can you make to “set aside” this week as Holy? No TV, radio, computer? No deserts, sweet drinks, caffeine? More family prayer, more periods of silence?
Repentance: In addition to Good Friday Confession, how about reaching out to all those you’ve harmed: said a harsh word to, had unkind thoughts of, or whose relationship you’ve neglected this year. Say I’m sorry, make amends, practice reparation.
Reorientation: Practice bringing Jesus in to reign over everything in your life. Defer to him to guide you in your marriage. See each of your children through His love. Use His guiding principles to manage people at work. Let His peace guide the rhythm of your days. Pray for His guidance throughout each moment of your day, in addition to setting aside times for prayer and quiet this week. Ask yourself throughout your days: What would Jesus have me do?
“Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done…”
With the palms you bring home today from Church, place them behind your crucifix, but also place them symbolically before your mind, heart and soul. Lay each task, each thought, each relationship before the King, as those in Jerusalem this day did before Jesus and the donkey.
Hold onto the great promise of Palm Sunday by practicing the reign of the Savior through each relationship and in each moment of your day. Your work of cooperating with His “will be done” contributes to His “Kingdom come.”
Also: Learn how to weave palms in a variety of patterns: See step-by-step directions.