Of all the Sundays in the Catholic Church’s liturgical year, Palm Sunday is my favorite. I love the pomp of the priest entering the church clad in red robes while congregants hold palm branches. I love the “Hosannas” that echo what Jesus heard when he entered the holy city of Jerusalem as a triumphant king. I love the deep and doleful story of that same kingly Christ being arrested, tried, and crucified by a fickle, unruly mob. In many churches, the story is read like a play, with the priest and various members of the assembly taking parts. There is a visceral bloodthirstiness when all of us are called on to cry out, “Crucify him!” There is a grave sorrow to Jesus’ words as he dies: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The story of the anointed Son of God being the subject of adulation one moment and hatred the next reminds me of how much people love to build up their heroes, only to tear them down. Whether in entertainment, politics, religion, or personal life, this tendency seems to be part of human nature. Our envy and pride often make us incapable of wishing others well, especially when “well” means “better than me.” For Christians, our fallen human nature is what put Jesus Christ to death.
Yet Palm Sunday is mostly a day of joy. Spring is upon us, and Easter is only a week away. In my family, Palm Sunday was an occasion for a giant feast featuring my Italian grandma’s ravioli. Whether they were rolled out by Grandma with her three-foot-long rolling stick or painstakingly formed into tender circles of deliciousness by Mom, we kids would count how many ravioli we could eat while simultaneously stuffing ourselves with homemade meatballs and ricotta cheesecake.
Not too many people I know make much of a fuss about Palm Sunday. For me, though, it will always be a reminder of time spent with family during what is for Christians the most important week of the year.
Hosanna in the highest.