Palm Sunday and the Highs and Lows of Life

The liturgy which we celebrate on Palm Sunday is a rather odd one.

Prior to reforms of the Sacred Liturgy called for by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Catholics around the world would have celebrated two separate Sundays — Passion Sunday, in which the Church commemorated the dolorous Passion and life-giving death of our Savior Christ, and another one the following week in which it celebrated the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the beginning of Holy Week.

Now, we have these formerly two separate Sundays — one filled with pain and sorrow (Passion Sunday) and the other with an abundance of hope, joy, and expectation (Palm Sunday) — combined into one.

Although some may decry this joining together of these two Sundays as a quasi-manic emotional roller-coaster ride, we believe this Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is the most proper representation of the Christian life which we could have presented to us liturgically.

It is a Sunday of highs and lows, of joy and sorrows, of cheers and tears, and, if people are honest with themselves, isn’t that the way our lives really are?

Nobody is happy every day. Everyone has crescendos (our highs) and diminuendos (our lows).

We have moments where we feel like we’re on top of the world, living our best lives, and, in the next few moments, due to circumstances beyond our control (or even sometimes because of our own fault), we have a crashing fall.

Palm Sunday is one of great joy. Jesus of Nazareth is rightly recognized as the one, true Christ, the long-awaited Messiah. Passion Sunday is one of great sorrow.

The all-beautiful one is scarred. He is broken, bloodied, beaten, struck down for our sins, his glorious countenance marred beyond all semblance of recognition.

The only innocent one is unjustly condemned, bearing the weight of our sins.

Yet, in all of this, there is no real contradiction in celebrating these two events on the same liturgical day.

For this is our life as human beings in this veil of tears.

We live in a fallen world, one which suffers under the weight of the fall, of the original sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, as well as our own personal sin.

Yet still, we can laugh, we can cheer, we can experience the love of another human being, the smile and the personal encounter in which we can know we are, in a limited, human way, the love of the transcendent God.

Every day in the life of a Christian is Palm Sunday because every day is filled with the joy of the Lord. Every day in the life of a Christian is Passion Sunday because as the music group REM sang many years ago — “everybody hurts.”

However, the Palms and the Passion both lead to the glory of what we know is true above anything else — the Lord’s Resurrection, his triumph over sin and death.

Thank God for the Church in her wisdom acknowledging the truth that each day for us in our lives is filled with passion and palms.