This year the celebration of Palm Sunday here in Aotearoa-New Zealand will be more somber because of the COVID 19 restrictions. I will be the celebrant at St. Peter and Paul’s, Lower Hutt, and at St. Michael’s, Taita. There will be no procession of the palms. I will simply bless the palms that will be bunched up in a basket at the beginning of the service. Towards the end of Mass, the basket will be taken to the door of the church and people can each take a palm. This rather somber celebration of Palm Sunday will hopefully prompt us to reflect more deeply upon what Palm Sunday is about. Crowds of people streaming out of a city to welcome Jesus in the hope that the Messiah, the Son of David, had come to liberate them from the occupying Roman forces. Sadly their hopes would be dashed. Even more sadly, they will be persuaded, only a week later, by their religious leaders to call upon the Romans to put Jesus to death.
In those few days, Jesus will experience betrayal and denial by those closest to him. His own people will call for the soldiers of the occupying forces to kill him. There is a Way of the Cross painted by a modern German artist which is entitled “It’s not over yet.” Whether we reflect upon the impact of climate change and threat against the very life of our planet or the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, or suffering of people around the world as a result of war and military coups, Jesus is calling upon us to look honestly at our world. Who are the occupying forces today? What are the false charges being brought against innocent victims today? Who are dying or being killed while soldiers mete out among themselves the meagre spoils of war?
Columban Fr. Tom Rouse provided this reflection.