The popular name of today is Palm Sunday. The liturgical name is Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. It is both palm and passion. In the Mass today, we hear the crowd shout Hosanna to the Son of David (Palm Sunday) and later the same crowd of the same story will shout Crucify him! Crucify him! (Lord’s Passion).
Palm Sunday and the Covid19 pandemic have the same lessons. The threat of Covid has caused the world much anxiety, fear, grief and sadness. But it has also taught us beautiful lessons that the world is only one boat, not many ships. We have seen deaths worldwide; but we have also seen front liner heroes rise up to the challenge to be men and women for others. The Covid pandemic showed us the ugly and fearsome face of death; but it has made humanity pray more and remember that in God alone are we protected. The quarantine has isolated us; but it has also moved the rest to be more compassionate and caring.
It is not wrong to be sad but we must remember that sadness is just part of the bigger story where the other chapter is joy. It is not wrong to mourn the dead but the grief is just a part of the bigger story of new life—our real life. It is not prohibited to wrestle with faith in God but we must remember that doubt is just part of the bigger story that God believes in us.
Palm Sunday is a paradox; so is Covid19.
This Sunday begins Holy Week. It is made holy by the love that the Lord Jesus poured forth into these days. Scourges and crownings with thorns do not make us holy. Carrying the heavy cross and being nailed to it does not sanctify. Rituals mean nothing unless offered with love. It is when pain is penetrated by love; when we allow love to prevail over our distress; when death is embraced with love for others—that is what truly sanctifies. Pain does not make us holy; love does. Courage is amazing but only by love are sins forgiven. Only love can redeem. Love does not seek to control. Love waits. Love obeys.
How did the Lord love us? By being obedient. He emptied Himself. He willingly let go of controlling His life. The foolish would send fire and brimstone on those stronger than them. And they call God who suffers as stupid. The foolish want control. The foolish cling to control. The foolish lead by fears and threats. Not God. The way of God is freedom. He invites. He does not twist arms.
Palm Sunday is a reminder that control is an illusion. Covid and Palm Sunday both teach us that we have no control of everything. God has the controls. Covid19 has also stripped us naked of our imagined securities and controls. An invisible virus has caused us this panic. The invisible has taken apparent control.
Tell me. Who is truly human? The one who sows fears and threats or the one who is unafraid of sickness or death saving others? Who is the true leader? The one who has many bullets in stock or the front liner who has no face mask yet continues to stay on caring for the sick? Tell me. Who do we need now? A leader who shoots down the unruly hungry or the anonymous citizen who offers food to the unknown hungry?
Jesus became obedient and refused the temptation to be in control. He emptied himself. He obeyed the plan of the Father. In His letting go, we are saved. Covid mocks the control freak in us. Control is an illusion. Palm Sunday says obedience to God saves. The truth has always been there. Covid19 just reminds.