Mark 14:1-15/47, Palm Sunday
This is the only Sunday in the year when we read two Gospels, one of triumphant entry, the other of crushing defeat. It is as if we are not permitted to linger very long with palms in our hand, celebrating Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. After all, this is not why Jesus came: not to be a king that commands the adulation of subjects, not to be the king of an earthly city.
This is also the only week in our liturgical year when we (intentionally) read the same event in Jesus’ life in two separate Gospels; this year the Passion according to Mark today and the Passion according to John on Good Friday. It seems to me that Palm Sunday is a kind of rehearsal for the dramatic, provocative, definitive event we celebrate on Good Friday: the death of Jesus our Lord and friend.
We are used to the notion of rehearsals. Not only do musicians and actors rehearse their music and lines for a performance. We too rehearse many things in life. We rehearse our apologies before we make them, making sure that we say what we mean and that our words carry the sentiments we hold in our hearts. We rehearse our words of love before we propose to someone we love. We rehearse our goodbyes, to those whom we must part from.
What are we rehearsing here on Palm Sunday for Good Friday? Perhaps some of us are rehearsing our contrition to Jesus our Lord for we too have been like Judas or Peter and betrayed him; we have been like Pilate and imagined ourselves impotent in doing what we know to be good; we have been like his closest disciples and abandoned him; we have been like the masses who have called down punishment on the innocent; we have been bystanders to the pain and suffering of God in the lives of the millions of poor in our world today.
But perhaps, what many of us are rehearsing today is not so much our failure, but our love. Like Mary of Magdala, Mary who was the mother of James the younger and Joset, and Salome, we have tried to remain with him whom we love through his suffering. Like Simon of Cyrene, we too have had the courage to help carry his cross on our shoulders. We have tried to be like the Centurion and understood this great act of love as truly a sign of the divine in our world. We have sometimes been like Joseph of Arimathea, providing dignity for his body when all else has been taken from him. Indeed, we remember the words of Jesus, truly when you have done this for the least of my brethren, you did it to me.
We celebrate Palm Sunday to help us rehearse our love for God and for one another. We do this by rehearsing God’s dramatic, provocative, definitive act of love for us. The Passion of Jesus touches our hearts in such a way that we cannot be desensitised to violence of any form in our world.
How will you then rehearse your words, your act of love as you enter Holy Week?