By Mitch Holte
It’s hard to believe that Palm Sunday is almost here. It seems like just yesterday we were making Lenten resolutions and receiving ashes.
Perhaps many of us hoped that this Lent would be different; that this time of penance would not fly by without us growing closer to our Lord. Since I’ve never heard of anyone saying “time sure flies when you’re doing penance” or “time really flies when you are fasting,” maybe some of us haven’t gotten off to the great start we had hoped for this Lent.
This weekend as we prepare to process into church with blessed palms we will hear from Matthew’s Gospel about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, meek and humble, but greeted by joyful shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey symbolized that he was a king and that he came in peace.
His donkey ride reminds me of when I was a boy. I had a pony that loved to go fast and one of my friends had a donkey that didn’t. The donkey had one speed and that was slow. You could actually walk faster than his donkey. I think that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey would have had the added effect of slowing down his journey so that this joyful moment could be savored. From Palm Sunday’s joyful entry into Jerusalem it’s tempting to just skip ahead a few days to the joys that wait for us on Easter morning. But theologian Barbara Brown Taylor reminds us, “The road to Easter morning runs straight through Good Friday.” This very weekend we will be hearing about Jesus’ passion and death.
Palm Sunday ushers us into the holiest week of the Church’s calendar, a good time to slow down a little just as Jesus slowed down entering Jerusalem. A time to get refocused on the resolutions we made at the beginning of Lent, resolutions that could help us grow in holiness, help us follow Jesus. The Bible has another name for those who follow Jesus: disciples. Jesus called his disciples and he calls us “to be holy as his Father in heaven is holy.” Vatican II called this our “universal call to holiness” because by our baptism we are all called to be holy (Lumen Gentium).
As a boy I had to slow down in order to stay with my friend riding the donkey. I think the same might be true of spending this time with Jesus. We might need to slow down from our busy lives to make time for him, especially this week, so that we can travel that “road to Easter morning” with the one whose very presence shook the whole city of Jerusalem.
The Church is here to help us travel that road starting with the Lord’s Supper and the washing of feet on Holy Thursday. Then there’s fasting and the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday and the welcoming of new light and new Catholics into the Church at the Easter Vigil — one continuous three-day liturgy called the Triduum, leading us to the high point of our faith, Easter Sunday. This Holy Week the words to a popular Christian song beckon us to “come just as we are to worship.”
(Mitch Holte is a member of St. Mary Parish in Solon and a deacon candidate).