(13 April 2014)
by Rev. Elder Hector Gutierrez
The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”
“Hosanna to David’s son!”
With Palm Sunday´s celebration, we begin our spiritual itinerary into Holy Week. One more time, we are convened to the paschal mystery as Hans Urs von Balthar said, “There in Jesus´ paschal mystery we recognize that God has not just redeemed the world but disclosed God´s own being”. I think we will never understand the profound reflection in this mystery, because it overwhelms us. That´s the reason we need to come again and again to this celebration, not just once a year, but every Sunday in our worship.
Palm Sunday offers to us, in a concentrated, advanced way, all that we will celebrate during the Holy Days because present to us is the figure of Jesus, as the suffering King that is acclaimed, yet at the same time scoffed at.
This Palm Sunday, we are not just recalling what happened almost 20 centuries ago; we have the opportunity to live with the same hope those in Jerusalem showed to Jesus in his triumphal entry. The call of the Christian liturgy is for us to be keenly present to the realities of an unjust world and live into our responsibility to change it.
For me, it is so hard to imagine the Palm Sunday that Jesus experienced was a festive and organized celebration, with the people exhibiting good behavior. Of course, that is not what happened. I imagine their actions were more like an authentic, joyous manifestation of their hope. Finally, they felt it was the right moment to express loudly their expectations, not just in the spiritual way, but in their full lives with all their being. It was more like a protest, motivated by the sense that something was about to change for the better.
We can celebrate in a new way this day, remembering that Jesus made his entry to Jerusalem mounted on a donkey, showing humility, gentleness, and peace, and surrounded by the crowd that was his community. We, as MCC, can celebrate Holy Week in the same spirit by being with the people in need, showing we have the conviction to reply to God´s calling with renewed, radical, inclusive acceptance of all people.
Let me share with you one experience from my early days as a clergy person. I was ordained a catholic priest in 1994. My first mission was in a small town that had just one ranch. The new priest was required to be in charge of the ranch, which had around 50 families living on it. I will always remember the day I arrived in that community. I experienced an incredible welcome two miles before the chapel; all the people were waiting for me so they could offer a special reception with a mariachi, fireworks, and shaking hands with everybody. Of course, nothing comes without some requirement from our lives. I understood with humility, that was my Palm Sunday in my life as a priest.
In the same community, just weeks later, I experienced the other not so comfortable face, when some people would stand up and leave the chapel because I was the priest in charge to celebrate the mass. At that time, I shared my ministry with a very old, traditional, and retired priest, who used to celebrate the mass in Latin. He told the people that I, the new priest, was a product of the devil because I did not use the Latin. This experience marked my ministry and my conviction; it helped me keep in my mind and heart that I would need to be prepared to live the reality that just because I am a clergy person does not mean I would always be welcome. Not everywhere would I hear “tu casa es mi casa.”
I used to celebrated Palm Sunday in the communities with banners that showed what change was needed in the context where we lived. The crowd that welcomed Jesus in Jerusalem had the expectations that something new would happen soon. If we have the goal to welcome Jesus in our community with our palms, we need to also have the commitment to work to change the unjust things and behaviors in the world so that it can be a new day for our many siblings to expect a better future.