READINGS: ISA. 50: 4-7; PHIL. 2:6-11; LUKE 22:16-23:56
Palm Sunday has arrived already; how time flies.
Today we celebrate (or perhaps, better, remember) Palm Sunday when Jesus is ceremoniously welcomed into Jerusalem. Jesus is cheered as a king by the masses as he rides a donkey into the Holy City but the Gospel reading from Luke is a recounting of the Last Supper, His arrest, condemnation, and death. Wait a minute while celebrating Jesus’ arrival we read about his condemnation and crucifixion? Talk about a disconnect!! Why?
The most obvious answer to this question is that Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week when the Church focuses on Christ’s Passion and death for us. But is that all we can learn from the readings. Perhaps there is also something to be learned from the contrast of joy-filled welcome into Jerusalem and only days later these same people condemn Jesus to death.
I think the contrast might help us today, challenging us to be an individual and think for ourselves. Scholarly studies over the last century have alerted us to the power of propaganda and how easy it is for mob mentalities to motivate even good people to participate in hideous acts of violence. We can readily point to Rwanda, Nazi Germany, or Communist China as cases where mass mob rule perpetuated genocide. But often we think of these cases as linked to specific cultures (the German or Chinese or African culture) but are we so different? In our history, there have been cases of mob violence: the lynching of blacks in the South, genocide against Indian peoples; internment of Japanese Americans; and the dehumanization of peoples who are different. Granted due to the respect for our Constitution, until now at least, these have been limited but the point is that powerful people using propaganda can spread fear and intimidation to manipulate the masses into attacking innocent people. And that is just what happened to Jesus!
So, what can we learn- perhaps to review our life today and ask are we accepting too uncritically images and opinions of others (oh those un-vaxed!! or oh those Russians! or oh those refugees!) rather than thinking for ourselves. Thinking not just in light of self-interest but reflecting Gospel values, especially treating others as you would like to be treated.
Masses can be manipulated to do violence- we see that in today’s Gospel reading- but we have a responsibility to think for ourselves and speak against injustice wherever it occurs.
Please remember to support the Mission Doctors’ Association as they act to heal and treat people regardless of who they are.
Happy Palm Sunday!