By Fr. Tim Knepper, C.PP.S.
The Gospel for Palm Sunday might be one of the longest readings we get in a year, not counting the Easter Vigil marathon. Long readings or intense theological ideas are good at times, but in a setting like Alcoholics Anonymous, even the Big Book gets broken down into focusing just on one or two pages at a time.
Short phrases or lines from writers land pretty well too. One from Regina Brett, a columnist, author, grandmother, and now podcaster, sticks out with hearing about the crowds today in the Gospel: “What other people think of you is none of your business.” Brett’s grandkids might adapt it in this age of technology: don’t read the comments.
In the Passion story for this Palm Sunday, the crowds surround Jesus at opposite ends. At the beginning of Mass, we hear the crowds shouting, “Hosanna in the highest!” Then at the reading of the Passion, we hear the crowds turn on Jesus, shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
At his entrance to Jerusalem, Jesus accepts the praise offered by the people, but it isn’t the praise of the people that brings him to Jerusalem. It isn’t what they think of him that drives him throughout his Passion. Before the praises of the crowd, Jesus reminded the crowd and reminds us: blessed are the poor, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are you when you welcome the stranger in your midst. Blessing isn’t based on whether the crowds love him or shout for his execution. Blessing is based on what God says of us, not what the crowds say—either in praise or in condemnation.
It’s not our business what other people think of us, and at the same time, we’re not completely on our own. In our religious community, our families, our local communities, our Church, and our whole world, we are connected to one another.
Our founder, St. Gaspar, had a vision of the bond of charity connecting us within the Precious Blood community, reminding us that we aren’t islands by ourselves. The connection and community of being together leads us to support and enrich each other.
Jesus doesn’t journey through the Passion alone. Different people, from Simon the Cyrean, the women of Jerusalem, and the beloved disciple, stay with Jesus in his Passion. The connection or communion God calls us to share with one another is closer to this kind of support throughout Jesus’s Passion than it is the crowd praising and then condemning Jesus.
As we enter into this Holy Week, may we find strength in this communion with one another. May we remember we don’t make this journey alone, even in the moments when suffering or pain in our lives feels like we’re all alone.
It’s not the crowds or the opinions of other people that support us throughout our journey this Holy Week. It’s our real connection with each other and the communion God builds in us that strengthen us in the journey to the cross and to the empty tomb.
Fr. Tim Knepper, C.PP.S., is the parochial vicar of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Palm Bay, Fla. He is also a spiritual director.