Opening Our Hearts on Palm Sunday Despite Our Fears

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By Sister Marilú Holguin Cruz 

On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the entrance of Jesus into our hearts. Even as many innocents are suffering and dying among our people, Jesus is there to provide shelter through his own pain and suffering. He hears the cry: Come to our aid!  

Palm Sunday is the door to prepare us for Holy Week as we start our pilgrimage to Easter. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, people spread their cloaks before him along the road. Others cut branches from trees. What are your cloaks? What branches, what green shoots from the tree of your life do you want to offer Jesus?  

“When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in an uproar, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowd answered, ‘It is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’” (Matthew 21:10-11)  

Amid cries of Hosanna! Jesus enters our lives as a peaceful and merciful king and invites us to be channels of mercy, bridges of mercy, weavers of mercy, sparks of mercy. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Jesus of Nazareth Vol. 2: “His power is of another kind: it is in God’s poverty, God’s peace, that he identifies the only power that can redeem.” He calls us to convert to a simpler and more austere life. We should ask ourselves: Who is Jesus for me today in 2023?  

Look, your king is approaching, he is vindicated and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9-10).  

His entrance into Jerusalem reveals the path from his word made flesh to the dispossessed, suffering servant, humbly accepting death by crucifixion. We celebrate this Christ who came to serve, who did not turn his face away from those who spit on and profaned him. We are ever more aware today that we must care for one another and care for the world we live in. This is central to our service and something we commit to when we accept the branches and palms and call to Jesus this Sunday.  

We must ask ourselves: How is my heart, as it faces the heart of Jesus? Perhaps it is a slumbering heart, a doubtful or fearful one, fearful of losing security. Or a tired and aching heart that needs to be comforted, embraced and nourished by the love of Christ. The Lord does not come to judge, disturb or punish. He enters our heart because he is willing to do whatever it takes to reveal to us his love in the midst of our fears and doubts. He also teaches us how to love our cast-off brothers and sisters, the sick, the poor, the abandoned and forgotten. He enters our being quietly and transforms our short-sighted, selfish outlook, making us capable of forgiving, and making our crosses into living places.  

Carrying olive branches and palms is a way of reminding us of the path followed by Jesus, and I invite you to put some on the door of your home. The olive branch is a worldwide symbol of peace and reconciliation between God and human beings, as when a dove carries an olive branch to Noah on the ark as proof of the end of the flood. Jesus prayed in an olive grove, also known as Gethsemane, which in Hebrew means oil press. This garden is a place of redemption. Let us anoint ourselves and our people with olive oil for this pilgrimage of transformation in the desert of our lives. May there be peace and justice for our peoples.