If there is one matter that people notice about Palm Sunday, it is that everyone in the Gospel is excited about Jesus coming into Jerusalem. It doesn’t really matter that this excitement will fade. After all, Palm Sunday begins Holy Week and the experience of His suffering, particularly on the Cross. However, that’s later on in the week. Right now, everyone is excited about Jesus coming into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey and that’s good enough.
To an extent, doesn’t that sound like us? We can get initially excited about God, too. We can experience a very good Mass, for example. There may be a celebrant we like. Or we are fortunate to hear a particularly good homily. Maybe the Lenten mission excited us? Or something spiritual we saw in the movies or on TV? Or maybe even because of a book or magazine article? Speaking about God with a friend? In all these ways, we are excited because God just came into our hearts, riding simply on a mule, symbolizing the simple and easy way He came into our souls.
And then we lose sight of Him. The following Mass, a week later, did nothing for us. The next speaker at the next Mass spoke too long. Another Lenten speaker won’t be until next year. I am not reading another good book or magazine article. Something else distracts us and God is further from our minds. We, ourselves, are experiencing some sort of suffering or pain and wonder where God is in all of that. Now we have left Palm Sunday and have entered the Garden where Jesus experienced His own passion. This wonderful moment is that Jesus’ suffering in the Garden was transformative and led to His Resurrection, and eventually the Ascension.
This experience is meant for us to have, as well. Of course, our thought immediately goes to the future and the resurrection of our bodies. But we must realize that we can experience such a transformative experience even now in our spiritual lives.
The Garden can easily represent our own tine of reflecting on our experience, and even wrestling with it. Do I really want to just jump from one life experience to the next by default? Do I really want to just move from one mood to the next? Don’t I really want to experience the Lord in a more consistent basis? To really be able to enjoy a solid relationship with the Lord and in this way come to know His Peace?
Wrestling in this manner is good. It is normal, but certainly we want it to end well – with a plan! For that we need to take advantage of our resources. Jesus did! He did not just rest in the Garden. He prayed to His Father, the best resource of all. And He stayed in the Garden and worked His agony through until He was ready to meet His persecutors and take His final steps. As an aside, this was a process not really taken by Adam and Eve. When tempted by the devil, they never talked about the devil’s offer with God! “Hey, God! What do you think about what the devil is asking us to do?” As a result of not taking advantage of their greatest resource, God, they fell and Original Sin came into the world. Jesus did not make that same mistake. He did talk everything over with God and entered into a Transformative experience that was marvelous. And as He has always invites us to follow Him, what He role models now in the Garden is something that we should not miss out on.
And so we wrestle with our lack of experiences, our dryness, with our God, and not just complain about it. Instead, we talk about it with God and develop a plan. Another book or spiritual magazine, perhaps? A more regular prayer life? Join a parish organization? Get a spiritual director? There are always ways to make our spiritual life stronger and steadier. This Palm Sunday – be enthused! But expect a Garden experience, too! And this time, rather than not going to Mass anymore or giving up prayer, find a way to keep these moments in your life and get transformed!
Peace & Blessings, Fr. Walt