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There is something troubling about Palm Sunday. I mean, generally, it’s a pretty fun day, and I’ve always liked it. I love processions, and I love the way palms feel when you wave them or bend them, or how they fray when you play with them too much. I like the dramatic reading, too, where it’s not just one person, or just me, reading the gospel, but everyone, even people in the pews. It’s a fun day, a good day, but there is also something troubling about it.
“Crucify him! Crucify him!” It’s a horrid thing to say, and we are asked – not told or ordered, but asked – to say it, even to shout it. And on Palm Sunday, it’s not just a line in a book, or something that some other people said, but something that we say. And with such a thing on our lips, we are asked to turn an eye to the darkness in our own hearts.
But isn’t it too much? We didn’t crucify Jesus – those other people, 2,000 years ago – they did it, not us. But, in truth, it wasn’t people who demanded Jesus hang on a cross – it was humanity. It was the humanity that we share with them. That darkness, that potential for hatred and evil, is also inside us as well. And it’s something that we look at today on Palm Sunday.
And we should, rightly, remember and say, “But we are redeemed! Christ is alive in us!” And so he is, working out that great Salvation which no force on earth, above it or below it, can touch. And yet the darkness is still there, present, within our hearts, a darkness that can move our hearts so quickly, so suddenly, from praise and palms to hatred and the cross. We see it often in our world. And we see it, too often, in our own lives as well.
All through Lent, and during Advent, I gave reasons why we do this: why we focus, for a time, on our own darkness, on penitence, and self-reflection. And I have done this because I think many people wonder why not just be happy? Why not just shout for joy to the rock of our salvation and be done with it. Well, because God didn’t. God didn’t just turn from the darkness to light. God looked death and hatred in the eye on the cross. He didn’t look away. God looked at the worse part of us possible, and he said, “I still love you.” And he’s asked us to do the same: with ourselves, with our enemies, and with all Creation.
That’s a hard act to follow, you know? But luckily, we don’t have to be perfect at it. That love is given to us freely, whether we’re a perfectly loving person or not. So let us give it, and be it, to help God heal a broken and shattered world.