Mt 21: 9-10 -- “The crowds preceding him and those following him kept crying out and saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’….and when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds replied, ‘This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.’”
Mt 27: 22 -- “Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’”
As I prayed with the readings for Palm Sunday, I wondered: how, in the space of a week, could the crowds of Jerusalem could go from proclaiming Jesus a prophet to turning on him and condemning him to death? It seems both their praise and rejection of Jesus were shallowly rooted, easily manipulated actions, based more on the feelings and passions of the moment, than on deeply rooted convictions and thoughtful, prayerful consideration of what they knew of both their faith and their experience of Jesus.
We too can so easily fall into this. I find parallels with our current national and international political, religious, and social struggles today. Just as the Scribes and Pharisees sought to manipulate information in the trial of Jesus and to whip up the crowd with accusations, today we face false news, alternative facts, overt attempts to manipulate our understanding of what is true and good, sensational accusations, and the whipping up of passions and ideology that increases violence and intolerance of others. Rather than following the Gospel, which impels us to see the face of Christ in everyone, we are urged to judge those different from us as wrong, someone to be afraid of and exclude, someone even to attack verbally and/or physically.
We are facing many crises in our world: war, poverty, refugees drowning at sea and in the desert, environmental concerns that affect our planet’s and our own health and well-being, human trafficking, the abuse and sexualization of women, extremist hate groups, and deeply-seated racism, to name a few. These take place on both a global and local scale. We are called to root ourselves deeply in prayer and scripture, to ask God for understanding and for the patience to engage respectfully with one another as we seek God’s guidance, and to respond faithfully and compassionately to the needs of our church and world. Otherwise, like Peter and the other disciples, we may end up falling asleep as another suffers and prays in anguish as the disciples did while Jesus prayed in the Garden, or we may even directly deny the humanity of another as Peter denied his relationship with Jesus and all the disciples fled in fear. We are called rather to have courage, to change systems and laws when we can, and to at the very least offer the comfort of our presence and assistance even when it seems small, as Simon of Cyrene, Veronica, and the women at the foot of the cross did. We are called to be prophets for our time. If we fail at first in this, we know God’s great love, forgiveness and mercy will give us repeated opportunities to show our love, to live into the paschal mystery of the cross, which in the surprising ways of God, leads to the resurrection.
Prayer: Ignatian Contemplation
One form of Ignatian prayer is to pray the scriptures by putting oneself into the story. As you pray with and listen to the readings of Palm Sunday and throughout Holy Week, imagine that you are in the scene and let yourself become one of the characters. See where God leads you and what God reveals to you as you enter into that story more intimately. Use your imagination! You may be surprised. I often am when I pray this way.
-Sr. Stephanie Spandl, SSND, is a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, one of YTM's Vocation Partner communities. Sr. Stephanie serves as the vocation director for the School Sisters.