Dear brothers and sisters, siblings of the Mountain Sky Area,
Two years ago, I was fortunate to spend Palm Sunday in Jerusalem. My guide took me through the old parts of the city, the same streets that Jesus carried the cross a few days later on Good Friday. But on Palm Sunday, the streets were electric with excitement. As we neared the edge of the city, towards the Lions Gate, we could hear the shouts and songs of a crowd. We exited through the gate and could make out a massive crowd descending from the Mt. of Olives. Pilgrims from around the world, waving palm branches and singing enthusiastically, walked and danced past us. The joy was contagious as we joined the throng back through the gate and into the old city. (To see video I took of the procession, click here
It was one of the most joyous occasions of my life, as I sang and danced with people I didn’t know but did know—they were my brothers and sisters in Christ. I had a glimmer of what the joy of that day must’ve been like, 2000 years ago, as Jesus entered that same city gate.
What went wrong, I wondered? How could such a joyous crowd turn into a bloodthirsty mob in just a couple of days? I pondered this deeply after participating in the Palm Sunday procession. Would, could I, have been one in the crowd whose shouts of “hosanna” turned into cries of “crucify”? Would I have stood steadfastly with Jesus long after it was fashionable to do so? Would I have joined in with the others, who misplaced justice and raised their fists in rage, demanding crucifixion of an innocent man?
These questions continue to haunt me.
All too often, we race from Palm Sunday to Easter, from one festive day to the next, unwilling to face the inhumanity that led to Jesus’ death. When we do so, our spiritual lives suffer. We must take the death march with Jesus, and understand our own role in the crowd. For Christ is still being crucified, the crowd still hungers for blood.
The crucifixion event, that absence of love and connection, has repeated itself throughout human history. We must take the painful journey, where triumph turned to tragedy, and the great light that came into the world was extinguished. We must face the parts of ourselves that traded a palm branch for a clenched fist. We must examine the ways we turn from Jesus and the love he expects us to offer the world. We must face our own cowardice when the road gets rocky and faith becomes risky.
I wish you a Holy Week filled with honest self-examination. Dare to be vulnerable before the One who loves you with a Love that will never let you go. May your fist become unclenched as you become open-hearted to the joys and pains of our companions. May we take this journey together, from Jerusalem to Golgotha. Even if we can’t conceive it now, new life awaits!
Bishop Karen Oliveto