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Reflection on Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Posted on March 24, 2024, by Kathy Wright SL

For many years this Gospel was a mystery to me. Jesus, who usually shunned the role of a public figure at the center of everyone’s attention who was to be honored and applauded, is now making plans for his entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. And his followers are turning over their cloaks for him to use and to cover the path that he is taking into Jerusalem. I imagine that gesture was to prevent him from being covered in dust.

Then in 2007 Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan wrote a book entitled “The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Tell Us About Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem,” and they focused on Mark’s Gospel that we hear today.  I only discovered the book in 2017 when I ordered it for someone at the Motherhouse and read the summary description of the book, which caught my interest. What a revelation that was for me, and it put Palm Sunday into a whole new context. If you have read it, you already know the story.

According to the authors, the Jewish people, even under Roman rule, gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Because there were so many Jews gathered in Jerusalem at that time each year, there was a Roman tradition of holding a parade of Rome’s military might to impress upon the Jews the futility of any rebellion against Rome. It was a large show of force with soldiers, horses and weapons. We still have oppressive governments today who hold those kinds of military parades to try to put to rest any thoughts of resistance to the government.  And we still sometimes wish for earthly power to overcome that which seems so unjust and destructive in our world today.

But according to Borg and Crossan, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey was a form of political protest against power without justice. At great personal risk to himself, Jesus mimicked the Roman parade, which was probably happening on the other side of Jerusalem, with another one for the vulnerable and oppressed who were very much in need of a leader to guide them and overcome the injustices they were experiencing. He rode into Jerusalem without weapons or power to remind people that God’s promise of freedom and justice would not come through a leader with military might who would overpower the Romans. And to remind people then and people today that God’s ways are not always the ways of the world, but they are ways to transform the world. We are called to wield the power of love the way Jesus did and trust its transformative power.

I wonder if the parallel events that take place around U.N. events have that same intention. While powerful (and often rich) world leaders meet to discuss things at the United Nations, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Status of Women, NGOs and groups with no political clout or power hold parallel events. These events allow people to hear the voices of the suffering, the marginalized and the ones who are often silenced.

I had already begun work on this reflection when I attended a parallel event for the Commission on the Status of Women last week and listened to Loretto Academy students, former Loretto Volunteers and our own Jean East share the power of telling stories and bringing people’s realities to life for us. It surely felt like the continuation of Loretto’s tradition and Jesus’ call to stand up and speak up on behalf of justice.

The first reading talks about opening our ears to hear God’s call and learning to speak to the weary. It inspires me to want to take part in parallel events here in this country that speak out against institutional racism, sexism, white privilege and Christian nationalism. I want to discover how this message and example of Jesus can be lived today in the face of intolerance and threats of violence in our country and around the world. I think many of us want to be a living example of an alternative to the current thinking that pits people against one another and engenders fear of those who are different from us.

And as I think about that I also need to remember the price that Jesus paid for speaking God’s truth and know that there may be some price to be paid now, most likely in the form of ugly, abusive verbal responses from those who see things very differently. The second reading speaks of Jesus emptying himself and humbling himself. I can imagine feeling very exhausted and humbled by a public action that speaks of a very different kind of relationship with others and the planet, a much more compassionate and respectful relationship. But I know that it is far better to be exhausted and humbled than to be overwhelmed and discouraged.  And Jesus taught us that in his last week, beginning with Palm Sunday and continuing throughout Holy Week to Easter Sunday.


Kathy Wright SL

Kathy, a CPA, joined the Sisters of Loretto in 1986 and continued her service to a variety of non-profits (including Nerinx Hall and Loretto Academy) and Loretto with her financial skills. She has enjoyed serving on many committees, including the Investment Committee, Guatemala Sister Community Committee, Executive Committee, Finance Committee and Forum. Kathy lived and worked in Haiti, where she fell in love with the people there. She now resides in Florida.