Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the end of Lent, the transition into Holy Week and Triduum. This is a particularly beautiful time in our liturgical year, a time to reflect on Jesus’ journey to death. The readings this week begin with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, where crowds greet him with honor and praise. We transition away from this joy and excitement to readings that speak to God as our source of strength in times of immense challenge, and we pray Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” We hear of how Jesus is exalted through his humility and obedience. We read of Jesus’ passion and crucifixion.
So many things could be said in response to these readings, and it was difficult for me to know where to begin. I kept coming back to the juxtaposition between Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and his subsequent death on the cross. The exaltation of the crowds who proclaim, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” stands in stark contrast to the animosity of the crowds yelling, “Crucify him.” As I reflected further, I began thinking about the immensity of Jesus’ death on the cross, the reality of suffering, and the hope our faith can provide us.
Suffering is a part of being human, but we often ignore or downplay our experiences of suffering. Suffering isn’t fun, and it isn’t easy. However, our faith shows us that suffering can be sanctified. We can take the suffering we have experienced, unite it with the suffering of Jesus, and grow in holiness. This isn’t to say that we should seek out suffering or that suffering is inherently good, but rather, through the grace of God, suffering can be transformed.
Jesus provides an example of how suffering might be transformed. It can give us comfort to know the beloved Son of God, the Word Incarnate, also experienced great suffering. While Jesus is at Gethsemane, he tells his disciples “my soul is sorrowful even to death.” He asks God to “let this cup pass from me.” He is mocked and beaten. In his final words, he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Despite this, he is faithful, he is humble, and he walks with integrity. He says to God, “not as I will, but as you will.” Psalm 22, as quoted by Jesus on the cross, begins with agony and ends with praising God for his help and deliverance. Jesus continually turned to God in times of immense sorrow.
Jesus, through his boundless love for the world, suffered to the point of death for our sake. The power of this journey is that it does not end in death. I pray that all of us may find strength in times of sorrow, and that we may be transformed into a new life.