This homily is based on Mark 11:1-10 on Palm Sunday.
The event we recount–and reenact–on Palm Sunday was a highlight of sorts in our Lord’s Public Ministry. Reported in all four gospels, our Lord’s entry to Jerusalem is often prefixed with the adjective “triumphal” to express the exceptional welcome given to Jesus as he arrived in Jerusalem.
The welcome must have been overwhelming, for the Pharisees and priests of the temple were quite disturbed. But if the noise of the cheering crowd bothered them, we can only imagine how they felt when Jesus, right after this welcome, went on to “cleanse the temple”–i.e., driving away the merchants and moneychangers who were corrupting his Father’s house. We are told that the cleansing of the temple was the last straw that convinced the Pharisees and scribes to plot Jesus’ death.
But what draws my attention today as I reflect on today’s reading is not so the Jewish leaders, who had been opposed to Jesus from the start anyway, but the crowd that cheered him so jubilantly as he entered the city of Jerusalem. This crowd that received him with singing and dancing, waving palm leaves–the same crowd would later be so easily persuaded to cry for his blood, waving their fists, while demanding that Pilate release the murderer Barabbas instead. Many of these same people would look away as our Lord staggered through the streets of Jerusalem under the weight of his cross–or worse, join in the mockery and jeering.
The Lord’s entry to Jerusalem questions us about where we’re going to be standing when our Lord ascends his Calvary: Are we going to remain faithful to him, huddled with the few faithful disciples standing under his cross. Or are we going to be among the fickle crowd, mocking the Lord from a distance or gone into hiding?
As we prepare to enter into Holy Week, let us examine ourselves: Do we welcome the Lord to our lives both in good times and bad? Or are we faithful only conditionally–attend Mass, say our prayers, follow the commandments only when it feels good or only when we have problems and are in desperate need of the Lord’s help? In other words, do we forget about Him when it becomes inconvenient or uncool to be his disciple–or when times are too good for us to “bother” with the Lord?
If you’re just going to put them away when they’re no longer fashionable, don’t bother waving the palm leaves.