Meditation for Palm Sunday

Icon Palm SundayIt’s easy to be a Christian and to love God when things are going well with us. On a warm, spring day we might spontaneously say ‘thank you’ to God for what He has done for us. As the English poet Robert Browning wrote: “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world”. Of course when things start to go wrong we instinctively turn to God in prayer. If we or a loved one gets sick, if we lose a job, if we have family or work problems, we ask God for help. This can comfort us for a while, but then sometimes it seems that God is not answering our prayers. Then we might become bitter, hate God or even lose faith in Him.
In a sense we are like the crowds in Jerusalem during Jesus’ last week. On Palm Sunday Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph. The crowds cry “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (Jn 12:13). They are ready for Jesus to drive the Romans out of Jerusalem and inaugurate the Messianic kingdom.
Jesus Christ cleanses the Temple, the crowds expect some earthshaking event is going to happen. But then Jesus preaches and teaches as usual. He is not driving the Romans out and bringing in the kingdom. The crowds are disappointed and begin to turn against Him. Then Jesus is arrested, tried, beaten and mocked. The crowds know that this is not supposed to happen to the Messiah. When Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor or Palestine says to the crowd “Behold the man” (Jn 19:5). The crowds replied “…. Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God.” (Jn 19:6-7) The crowds have turned against Jesus because He did not do what they expected Him to do, what they thought He should do.
At times we are like the crowds in Jerusalem. We love Jesus when things are going well with us, but when He seems to not answer our prayers we can turn against Him. But prayers are not magic and Christ does not promise us heaven on earth. He Himself was tortured, beaten and killed. That means Christ knows what it means to suffer, to (literally) bear the cross.
As we accompany Christ through His last days during Holy Week, the scripture reading and the prayer tell us about His suffering. This means we are bearing our own crosses, as terrible as they are sometimes, and Jesus is with us, helping us to bear our cross. He promises us resurrection, of course, at the end of time, but through prayer to our Lord, our reading of scripture and veneration of icons, and above all in receiving Holy Communion, even in the midst of our suffering, we have a foretaste of the coming resurrection.

Tone 1 Troparion
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion,Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God.Like the children with the palms of victory,we cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord!
Tone 4 Troparion
When we were buried with Thee in baptism, O Christ God, we were made worthy of eternal life by Thy Resurrection.  Now we praise Thee and sing: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord!
Tone 6 Kontakion
Sitting on Thy throne in Heaven, carried on a foal on earth, O Christ God, accept the praise of angels and the songs of children, who sing: Blessed is He Who comes to recall Adam!

Fr. John