Palm Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 17 April 2011

There is a strange arc on Palm Sunday. We begin with the crowds acclaiming Jesus as the long-awaited one who comes in the name of the Lord. The title with which they acclaim him, ‘Son of David’, is a messianic title. As he enters Jerusalem there is an air of excitement and anticipation. Son of David implies a new kingdom, a new glorious chapter in the history of the people of God. Then later in the Mass we go on to read the passion narrative. Here the same crowds have turned, within a matter of days. We read that passers-by jeer at Christ on the cross. The people who were singing praises are now taunting him.

It is a sobering reminder of the fickleness not only of crowds but of all human beings. Which of us could say that we have never run with the crowd, even against our better instincts? Which of us could say that we have never voiced opinions that were not our own, motivated by the fashion of the day and our desire to win favour in the eyes of others? This is the world – our world – into which the love of God incarnate has come to establish the kingdom. The crowds greeting Jesus were right. This is a new and definitive moment in history. Only this time it is a kingdom of the heart that Jesus is creating, a movement of followers who will seek to bring into everyday life the love of God and neighbour that Jesus taught and lived himself.

Because we know this and believe this it is difficult to read the words of the passion. In particular, it is painful to shout the words ‘Crucify him’. This is not what we want, we think in the quiet of our hearts. But let’s remember that we are following the whole story. That story includes not just the cross, but also the resurrection. As we re-enact the events of the passion, we enter more deeply into the meaning of it all.

Psychologists tell us that we come to terms with trauma in our lives by playing it over and over again in our minds. We see it from different perspectives. We think how we might have reacted differently at the time.

And in this way, slowly, the trauma has less and less hold on us. As we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, as we hear the menacing crowd and hear the thud of the nails hammered in, we are re-living once more a great wound on the body of humankind. But by doing this we find that we are not trapped in the past, but rather, we are set free in the power of the resurrection that we will soon celebrate. The paradox is that in
remembering the death of Jesus we enter more deeply into the life of Jesus, as the one who overcame sin and death and takes us with him in his victory.

So let us not be afraid to be with the crowd of sinners this Holy Week. We are the people who acclaim him. We are the disciples whose feet he washes. We are also the disciples who run away as he is arrested, and the crowd who taunt him on the cross. We remember all this and act it out so because we know that God’s response is not to leave us in our shame.

The events of each Holy Week tell us that this world’s sorrows are not the final word. Rather, God raises us up with Christ and invites us to live the promise that his love is with us until the end of time. Confident in that love, confident in the victory of Christ over human sin, we can ask for gifts of grace so that we can continue the work of the kingdom of God that Christ has entrusted to us.

‘Your kingdom come’ he taught us to pray. Holy Week renews us each year in our desire to live what we pray.

Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London. His latest book: Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, on ICN's front page. To read Sr Gemma Simmonds' review on ICN see:

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