My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Palm Sunday, in the liturgical year, is a day when we anticipate the joy of Easter by reenacting the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem several days before the beginning of His passion. The symbol of palm is a powerful one. The Gospels describe the people of Jerusalem spreading palm branches on the roads so that Jesus could enter in a regal manner.
The symbol of palm goes deeper into God’s revelation. In the beginning of the book of Genesis, we hear the story of Noah who saves his family from the great flood with the Ark. Towards the end of their ordeal, Noah sends out a dove who on the second time returns to the Ark with a palm or olive branch in his beak. This is the indication of dry land being somewhere within reach. It is a symbol of the peace to be created between God and humanity, thereafter to be symbolized by the rainbow, which is to recall that God would never again destroy the world by water. In the New Testament, the palm branch is portrayed in the Book of the Apocalypse as the symbol of the martyr’s glory and a sign of resurrection.
So it is with the palm branches that we bless on Palm Sunday. They become not only a sign of our peace with God, but also of our peace with one another. It is a sign of our call to reconciliation as well as our call to resurrection.
There is an old-Italian religious custom that is not well understood even by today’s Italian-Americans. Many Italian-Americans, after attending Palm Sunday Mass, make sure that they visit cemeteries to take a palm cross, a symbol of the Resurrection, to the graves of their loved ones. They also visit the homes of their family and friends and perhaps bring a piece of palm with them. The original meaning of the palm exchange, however, was to make peace with one’s enemies, so that one will celebrate Easter in full. What an exercise in humility!
Several years ago, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, commenting on Palm Sunday said, “Humility is above all God’s way: God humbles himself to walk with his people, to put up with their infidelity…. This is God’s way, the way of humility. It is the way of Jesus; there is no other. And there can be no humility with- out humiliation.”
There is no greater humiliation for us than to admit we need to forgive another person or ask for for- giveness. Sinners come in all types of circumstances. I do not mean mortal enemies, but rather misunderstandings; long kept hurts and slights can make us unfriendly or even distanced from family members or others in our lives.
Lent is a time of reconciliation. As we put out into the deep of Holy Week, we remember the lesson of humility that Jesus gave to each one of us.
On the Monday of Holy Week, April 10, the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Rockville Centre and the Diocese of Brooklyn will take part in Reconciliation Monday, giving the faithful of our downstate area an opportunity for confession at most of our churches from 3 until 9 p.m. Find a church near you at www.dioceseofbrooklyn.org.
There is no greater opportunity to humble ourselves at the beginning of Holy Week than this opportunity to truly confess our sins. Hopefully, the greater opportunity for confession will enable many who have been away from the sacrament of reconciliation for some time to return to the sacraments for Easter.
Do not let this Reconciliation Monday pass without making an effort to publicize it to others and make our own interpersonal reconciliation easier.