With this day, we mark the beginning of the road that Jesus took to his death. Having listened to the longer than usual Gospel reminding us of all the events of that week 2000 years ago leading up to his crucifixion, we don’t press a pause button and leave Christ hanging on the cross.
Today we know and see the big picture, how it unraveled and what happened after his death by crucifixion. But back then, only Christ alone could anticipate his victory, undistracted by a cheering crowd that would quickly change into an angry mob. He allowed events to unravel knowing full well there were consequences.
Even though our Lord’s path leads to his death, his goal is to defeat death. That’s why today’s liturgy of the Church has all the hallmarks of Christ’s victory. He came among us as a shepherd-warrior to do war with the devil and he won the battle decisively. This is the reason that today is festive, with palm branches and processions. It’s not because we are caught up in the short-lived excitement of the crowds of that first Holy Week. As Christians know now that every Sunday is the beginning of a Holy Week, a day to rejoice in the Resurrection, even as we carry the cross of Christ and feel its weight and we bear on the body of our souls the scars and the wounds of the good fight.
We will take these blessed palm branches home. While they are freshly cut, they can remind us of the joy and divine gift of life. But as the palm branch dries out and withers, it will remind us of how still delicate and fragile our life is. What can bring it back to life again? Only Christ can show us how to accept pain, suffering or even the acceptance of death. He alone can lift us when we fall, comfort us when we are betrayed, restore us back to a life worth living for when we are tempted to give up. Embracing the gift of our own cross is the ultimate statement of trust in the triumph of Christ.
During this Holy Week, let us be resolved to stay close to him in constant prayer and companionship, sharing the battlefield with him, confident that he will lead us to victory over sin and death.