How do you greet a hero? Perhaps with a smile, a bow, a hearty handshake, or maybe requesting a “selfie?”
On a bigger stage, we welcome American heroes with cheering and fireworks, parades and confetti and more. We do this for war veterans, World Series champions, and others.
In the time of Jesus, heroes were celebrated with songs, parades, and rejoicing. On Palm Sunday, we recall the crowds greeting Jesus as He entered Jerusalem [Matthew 21]. They wave palms, toss flowers, and lay their cloaks on the road. Jesus rides on a donkey as the conquering King, taking possession of the royal city, Jerusalem. We might imagine little children running up to wave and touch His hand. Jesus Himself shares in their joy. He is the great King who “comes in the name of the Lord.”
At Mass, we too carry palms. We too sing and hail Jesus as Lord and King. We don’t just think about these events, but we participate-- fully, consciously, and actively. He really is our King at this very moment. We also know more than the crowds. We can see the storm clouds gathering; the Pharisees and Roman leaders are plotting Jesus’ capture and execution. We begin Palm Sunday with joyful songs; a few minutes later we will hear of Jesus’s suffering and death on the cross. Participating again, as we recall His Passion, with the crowds we cry out, “We have no king but Caesar! Crucify Him!!” In sorrow, we see that we too reject Him by our sins and selfishness.
Is this our hero? Is this truly our King? Those other champions seem invincible-- with trophies, parades, fireworks, and marketing deals. Christ the King holds nothing back from us. He gives Himself completely to us-- even pouring out His blood on the cross for us. He shares in our joy, but does not hide Himself in the safety of our applause. He allows us to touch His Sacred Heart; the soldier’s lance even pierces His Heart on the cross.
Holy Week is the spiritual pinnacle the Christian calendar. This week we sing to our King. We walk with Him. We watch Him and listen to Him. We want to give our hearts to Him. We pray that we may remain with Him all the way to the cross-- and into the glory of His Resurrection. We know that He always remains with us, in our joys and sorrows, in our triumphs and crosses. With the angels and saints we proclaim again, “Holy, holy, holy Lord! Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest!”