We begin Palm Sunday singing "Hosanna in the Highest!" But what is it we are singing? When I was in Theology 3 at the Unversity of St. Thomas, I was taking a course on Music in the Catholic Tradition. My Professor was Fr. Michael Joncas (a prolific composer and beloved theologian), and he pointed out something historically and culturally relevant to the singing of "Hosanna in the Highest" during the time of Christ on Earth. Historical Context: The Jews were expecting a warrior king to liberate them from the Roman empire. They expected the Messiah to have worldly power beyond imagining like the prophet Isaiah had foretold, and the good Jews recognized the signs of the time. They saw the scripture being fulfilled from the prophet Isaiah and gathered their palm branches to pave the road to Jerusalem for Jesus. Except, Jesus wasn't a warrior king. Jesus was a minister. Fr. Mike informed us that the Chanting of Hosanna was more of a battle cry than one of rejoicing. It was a song of anxiety from the people toward the king that has arrived to liberate those oppressed. The Jews of the time didn't realize the liberation they sought was from Sin. Oops! Melodically, we sing these lovely lines about Hosanna in the highest, but pleasant is the furthest sentiment from the cry. It's mean to ignite a fire within us.
Hence the term, "Passion" this Passion Sunday. We embrace this flame of hope given to us through Christ Jesus, and only through this sacrificial offering of His body do we see how freedom looks. We no longer have a fear of death because Resurrection is a reality. The Ressurection and the life came through this absurdity of the Cross. God took the most violent means of execution and turned it into a sign of hope. Only an all-powerful God can make a paradox like that happen. So the question we have to ask on this Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion is this: What does this entry into suffering and excruciating death say to us? I think what it says, and allow me to be blunt, is that God will take the absolute trainwreck of any situation and bear something amazing from it. The total BullSh*T of life's cruelties can be steered directly into something fruitful; we need to be willing to accept that about God. Look at our society right now. We are all locked down for fear of a virus that can cause absolute havoc for our health. But look at the good it has done. We are video chatting with people we haven't seen in decades. We have been staying home and watching our kids grow-up in the most beautiful ways (albeit, challenging as a parent some days). We are communicating in every facet imaginable, and it is not causing us separation anxiety, it is bringing us peace.
I step out of the house for a day of recording Mass for the parish, and I get anxious to get home. People, I am an extrovert! That's not how I view my nature. But I am glad to be home with my family when I typically don't see them this time of year. I look forward to chipping away at the Holy week celebrations that will be mute but crafting them at home on my ancient iMac while my kids watch Lion King for the thirty-thousandth time. The work takes longer, is broken up sporadically, and sometimes lasts later into the night than I would typically work with rehearsals, but the work is good. I'm (we are) home—home with love and caring for our neighbors who can't leave their safe place. Home with family. Home with prayer. Possibly passionate about returning to our faith communities in a physical sense as much as a spiritual one. If you're concerned about celebrating holy week at home, check out this excellent guide that the Liturgical Press in Collegeville, MN put together. It is a fantastic resource to bring your faith home, just like that 1st century Christians did in the beginning. Peace, -Matt