This day of hosannas and palms begins a very sacred week in our liturgical year, one that is filled with both terrifying and glorious moments. It is actually the triumph of the Incarnation which we celebrated on Christmas and puts a “period” at the end of the sentence… and God became human. These seven days present to us a picture of “divine vulnerability,” a time when Jesus experienced the depths of human suffering.
Palm Sunday and the days that followed reflect the fickleness of human nature: one day you are with me, but when the winds of misfortune blow, accolades and palms disappear. In Bethany, a stone's throw from Jerusalem, Jesus spent precious time with those closest to him—his disciples, friends, his mother, and those women who followed and ministered to him during the previous three years. Perhaps these were days of “goodbye” to his loved ones as he sensed the growing animosity toward himself after the cleansing of the temple. We too experience such poignant moments with loved ones who are facing their final days.
It has been said that God chose to become human, not to change God's mind about us but for us humans to change our mind about who God really is. Because we have read the Passion account many times over, we may have become impervious to all the human emotions and fail to appreciate the depth of vulnerability that our loving God endured for us.
On Holy Thursday, we hear Jesus ask for the passing of this cup of suffering, just as we too at times ask for help in desperation. In the days following, Jesus suffered a denial of friendship from one who boasted about following, regardless of the consequences; and he knew the betrayal of Judas, one he had thought he could trust. Are these experiences so foreign to us?
And what about depth of physical pain Jesus endured on the cross? In our own physical sufferings, we have a glimpse of his pain, his real desolation when he cried out from the cross, “Father, why have you forsaken me? When we feel abandoned by God, we too cry out, “Where are you, God?”
Let us enter this holiest of weeks by pondering how much God truly understands each and every type of human tragedy. Let us pledge to grow deeper and deeper in love with the God who manifested such divine love—first in a manger in Bethlehem, and then made exquisitely visible for us on a cross on Calvary.
– Sister Helen R. Boyd, OP
Sister Helen resides in Dominican Convent where she serves
on the Life Enrichment Committee and co-chairs the
Committee for Serving Vulnerable Populations.