REFLECTIONS OF A SIMPLE CATHOLIC ON PALM SUNDAY
I am just a simple Catholic, ordinarily content to let the priest do the heavy lifting in Church during this holiest week of the church’’s year. The readings are admittedly lengthy, and they were always surrounded with what I thought was too much pomp and circumstance. But in this year of the coronavirus, while I plod through the readings on my own, I am missing the pomp and circumstance which let you know that this Week was like no other. To say that is an understatement, since, while I never thought I would see the day, I find myself banished not just from a particular church (that, sadly, is all too familiar), but I am banished from all churches during the busiest time of any church’s year. I understand the need; the experience just takes gettting used to.
The circumstances have forced me to be more attentive to the readings, which my household share together, and I confess to being more moved by the Palm Sunday readings in particular. The joy of Jesus’ entry is tempered by the pain and sorry of the crucifixion, and the details of all the characters of the Passion seem to resonate with me all the more. Perhaps it is because of what we have gone through as a parish; perhaps its just because those characters appear in the privacy of my home. In spite of Jesus appearing to know that the end is near and that he will be betrayed, He chooses to have a meal with His closest friends. Instead of acting like the coach who is cheering and bolstering his team for the battle ahead, Jesus is calmly reclining at table, ready to share bread and wine, even with those who would betray and deny him. What a loving Lord Jesus truly is.
Jesus prays often in the gospels, and He does need some prayer time, in which His humanity, and the humanity of the disciples, stands out in high relief. His closest buddies, including the denier, cannot stay awake, in spite of their promises to do so. It is encouraging to me that Jesus feels “sorrow and distress” at what is about to transpire, and three times He takes one last chance to inform His Father that if there is some other way of doing this He would prefer it, sounds like what a God-man might say. “If it’s possible let this cup pass me by,” but “not as I will, but as you will.”
I cannot help but see similarities in the Passion to what we have gone through as a church, and what Fr. Christopher has gone though as a priest. The last nearly four years has often been referred to as a crucifixion for Fr. Christopher. At the very least, he knows what it is like to be handed over to the “evildoers,” to be betrayed by religious leadership and so-called religious people, and to have friends switch to being foes. Fr. Christopher would be the first to say that the experience of his Savior is incomparable, and yet I could not read the gospel without recognizing similarities to what he has endured. Blessedly, he has never been abandoned by the masses, but the religious leaders’ desire for “false testimony” by “false witnesses” seems to be exactly what happened in October of 2016.
All of us who truly loved the parish of St. Isabel have suffered a great deal in the years since 2016, and all of this week with its stories of suffering and betrayal will no doubt resonate with all of us. But even as we begin this most solemn week of the church’s year, when the readings about a “suffering servant” sound all too familiar, we are reminded at week’s end that there is resurrection and new life. It is that resurrection which gives us hope and the strength to go on, even through hardship and difficulty.