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Palm Branches, Hosanna’s, Welcome

Sister Doreen’s Reflections

Palm Branches, Hosanna’s, Welcome – Palm Sunday: the beginning of Holy Week that ushers in the Hallelujah’s of Easter.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday into a city that was then a hostile city where shouts of “Hosanna” soon became shouts of “Crucify”. We know that when Jesus came down from the Mount of Olives, he paused and wept over the city, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

Jerusalem is still a city where hostilities run rampant. The present hostilities between Israel and Palestine causes so much enmity between the two communities, with people being killed, and no respite for a bewildered people who long for security and peace. The international community seems only able to stand helpless and watch and pray along with that fervent prayer of Jesus for the things that make for peace.

In a book Lent and Easter Readings from Iona: “There is a way forward. It cannot be based on the love we are commanded to offer our enemies. After all the never-to-be-forgotten atrocities on both sides, that would be asking the impossible. But there has to be trust. Palestinians and Israelis have so much in common. Their need for a measure of justice towards the other; their longing for that shalom or salaam which are only a syllable away from each other; their need for the land they share to continue to be a place of pilgrimage …  The basic need is trust. Once there is a basis of trust, there is hope; once there is hope, the talking can be constructive.”

Somehow, I believe that there is a lesson in that first Palm Sunday. Into Jerusalem, Jesus rode, it was not on the proud war-horse that people were expecting their Messiah to ride on but the humblest of creatures, a donkey. It was not pride but humbleness that was the gift of that first Palm Sunday. It is when we can be humble that we can open the way for others to trust.

As we enter this Palm Sunday into Holy Week, we enter aware that there is a tremendous amount of pain and destruction around us, it is cruel and often preventable. We do it to one another, and we do it to the environment as well. It is the attitudes and the actions that treat each other as things rather than sacred and precious, as individuals and objects rather than as one great community that needs each other. All of life is sacred and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

Jerusalem, it seems to me, can be thought of as a symbol representing all of creation, in a situation of pain that cannot easily be solved. There are no quick fixes, but I believe that there can be creative solutions when we seek them with unselfish compromises and an attitude of what is best for all, and always, humbly, with an awareness of the oneness of life that we share. Nothing we do remains isolated, everything we do influences and affects our common life.

Joyce Rupp included a quote from Henri Nouwen in an article she wrote called “Entering the Pain of Another.” Henri said: “Compassion means to come close to the one who suffers … A compassionate person says, ‘I am your brother, I am your sister; I am human, fragile, and mortal, just like you …we can be with the other only when the other ceases to be other and becomes like us.” This becomes a great challenge when it is the suffering of one belonging to person or group that is regarded as an enemy or a separate entity.

On this Palm Sunday, the words of Jesus ring loud for me as Jesus wept and cried “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”  Entering into the pain of those who suffer with a compassionate love will stretch us far beyond our own heart. Here we embrace mystery, as we join ourselves to God’s compassionate heart for all the world.

I found a poem by Joyce Rupp to be one for thoughtful meditation, it is called “Uprooted”.

Long ragged lines of lost people wrap around the wide boundaries of Earth,
Like roots seeking soil after a deluging erasure.
Day after day they walk, trudging onward, leaving behind the little or much they once had.
A multitude of refugees departing, fleeing from whatever has loosened their bond with the past.
Poverty-worm workers trying to cross unwelcome borders, seeking jobs,
Homeless ones walking away from rubble and debris, tattered by earthquakes, fires, floods,
The terrified running from rebels and dictators, others fleeing the chaos of uncertainty,
And wounds too old, too deep to heal.
The ugly whip of pain and destruction forces the long lines forward, rootless and unpretentious,
Allowing them little time to glance backward at what they leave behind.
They look ahead with anxious eyes, eyes that only the emptied can understand,
Wondering if they will find a place where roots grow strong, and home is undisturbed.

Palm Sunday, the beginning of a holy week: today it is with shouts of “hosanna”, followed closely by shouts of “crucify”, and ends triumphantly in shouts of “Alleluia”. Teilhard de Chardin said: “Faith in the future is not dead in our hearts. Better still, it is this hope, deepened and purified, which seems bound to save us.” It is true that when difficulties and misfortune occur there is always the possibility of becoming bitter, hostile, and fearful. It is also true that we can gradually move beyond the overwhelming loss and situation and come to accept hope, trusting that through the pain there will be growth because of what has been experienced.

Together, this solidarity with each other is a great source of hope, of resiliency. In our interwovenness, our interdependence, there is a tremendous source of strength. There is hope. In the words of the hymn Jerusalem, My Destiny: “I have fixed my eyes on your hills, Jerusalem, my destiny! Though I cannot see the end for me, I cannot turn away. We have set our hearts for the way: this journey is our destiny. Let no one walk alone. This journey makes us one.”