Why do you suppose that we read the Gospel on Palm Sunday as a play? Why don’t we just read the Gospel the same way we do the other fifty-one weeks of the year? The reason is because the Church wants us to participate; to be part of the scene that took place so many centuries ago.
Notice the transition that takes place in a half hour during mass. At the beginning we all waved our palm branches and welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. “Huzzah! Alleluia! Jesus is the Messiah!” Yet, now, just barely thirty minutes later we’re demanding that He be put to death. “Crucify Him!” That’s what you said, isn’t it? It didn’t take long for us to turn on Him.
What happened in that week so long ago was almost as fast, especially if you measure it by the yardstick of history. Just a couple of days and the chief priests and the elders convinced the people that Jesus wasn’t who He said he was. He was a fraud! He was a liar! The people had been duped! The mob mentality took over and Jesus was killed. His former friends and followers demanded that a murderer be released, not Jesus.
When we play our part in this story, we’re reminded that Jesus died for our sins. Our sins were the reason He had to die. Every time you and I commit a sin, it’s like we’re yelling “crucify Him” all over again. Every time we lie or cheat or take a stapler home from the office, we’re yelling “crucify Him!” When we talk about someone behind their backs or when we turn our backs and look the other way when millions of unborn babies are killed, we yell “crucify Him!”
The time that elapses between our worshipping God and singing His praises at mass and our turning on Him with our actions, can be just minutes. C’mon, we’ve all done it. We exchange the sign of peace, receive Holy Communion, then we leave church and pull out on Lafayette Avenue and someone cuts us off. We react by yelling or giving them the one-finger salute and there we are, “crucify Him!”. Sometimes we even pass judgement on others while we’re still here in church. We haven’t even left the building and we’re yelling “crucify Him!”
Fortunately Jesus’ response if always the same:
“Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.”
- 9 things you need to know about Palm Sunday (ncregister.com)
- Pope Francis holds first Palm Sunday Mass (standard.co.uk)