The King on a donkey: reflections on the Sunday Gospel Mark 14:1—15:47 (Palm Sunday) by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

In preparation for mass this Sunday:

In the ancient word, palm branches represented victory and hope. They were often used at political rallies. Carrying and waving palm branches expressed the hope that oppression and tyranny would be overthrown.

Waiting For The Word Follow Palm Sunday 10
Waiting For The Word Follow Palm Sunday 10

The crowds that welcomed Jesus into the city of Jerusalem carried palm branches and welcomed him as a “King.” However their understanding of Jesus’ mission was imperfect. They did not grasp that his “Kingship” was not about armies and borders, political clout or toppling a regime.

Jesus’ mission had more to do with changing human hearts and  overthrowing all the “tyrannies” that rob us of hope; all the forces that would make us believe that evil is more powerful than good; that cruelty eventually “wins out;”  all the inclinations to fear and dread our own deaths. That’s the power that Jesus exercised.

So on Palm Sunday, we Catholics do something rather odd:

We carry palm branches as if to welcome a victorious “King.” But then we tell the story of his violent death and all the human cruelty associated with it.

And that’s the point: Hatred and cruelty could not “snuff” him out. Jesus’ mission was not laid to rest. It lived.

And all the religious and political bullies that taunted him and tried to silence him failed.

Avondale Pattillo UMC Palm Sunday altar
Avondale Pattillo UMC Palm Sunday altar

Christians live with the conviction that evil must be firmly opposed and challenged. But we also live trusting that even when all the evil seems overwhelming and our efforts futile, that God has the last word. The end of the story, our story, the human story is not dark.

The saga of the King riding on a donkey reminds us of this.

On Palm Sunday, with branches in hand, we hail the one who calms our hearts; this strange “King”  who invites us to victoriously trample on our fears.

Copyright 2014 by Stephen Michael LaBaire

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