Historians tell us there were two processions on that Sunday. One of them came from the west, all the way from the Sea, and this involved Pilate, the Roman governor. He lived on the coast in Caesarea. His procession would have featured horses, armed retainers and soldiers. As they came to the city, a trumpet and drum. He is a sign of security in tense times, no riots, urging people to get along and pay their taxes, keep the peace.
Then from the east on that same day, from Bethany, the entry of Jesus. Here is a bold yet vulnerable Messiah, with no armed guards, mostly a peasant following, arriving on a donkey. He won the hearts of people by living with them, meeting them in their needs, in sickness, even in their sinfulness and poverty. He awakened a hope for community, a just order that would arise not from force of power, but that would be given, like yeast expanding dough, or seeds growing.
This mixed bunch of people can be embarrassing, many only half grasping the message: some out for prestige, others judgmental, eager for change. So we show up on Palm Sunday as well, without the power we’d like to have for the sake of the church we want, or a pain-free city, a serene and sober life. Jesus knows our thirst, our limited vision, our fear of death. In this long story, this long week, his heart knows our uncertainties.
There is another power. “Get up. Let us be on our way.” We hold our palm branches. We join the song.
—Fr. Richard Bollman, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit province, is currently engaged in pastoral ministries in Cincinnati and at the Jesuit Center, Milford, OH.