Today we take up our palms as we re-live the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The crowds acclaim him as the Messiah, the long awaited King. During the years of his ministry Jesus had refused the title, but now as he enters the Holy City, five days before his Passion, he accepts it: knowing that very soon they will see of what his Kingship truly consists: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (Jn 12:32) Raised high on the cross for our sins, God wants to rule by the force of attraction alone: the attraction of the Son’s lonely and enduring testimony to the Father’s eternal love for each one of us, until the end. And to all who come to Him across the centuries this King gives not the perfect social order, nor freedom from suffering, but something much greater: the forgiveness of sins and innocence restored, new life from the dead- his own Heart, in the place of our hearts of stone.
Jesus knows very well that the crowd’s enthusiasm is fleeting, that they welcome him more as the potential satisfier of their earthly desires, than as the King he truly is. That the same people will in less than a week be shouting for his crucifixion has probably been a staple of Palm Sunday sermons from the beginning! The Church in her liturgy, which preaches without words, says the same thing still more eloquently: the palms we use today to acclaim the coming of our King will be burnt to become the ashes with which we will mark our heads in repentance next year’s Ash Wednesday for all our refusals of his Kingship. And yet Jesus defends the crowd: in his condescension he accepts even these imperfect beginnings of love. For in truth all earthly goods do come from Him, and rather than pretend we are above our natural desires it is much better to confide to him in simplicity all the material details of our lives, all our hopes and dreams. And it can never be wrong to give thanks, to acclaim him as the source of our blessings: if we were silent then the very stones would have a right to cry out! But let us remember that it is not these things which count the most, and that in the end nothing will survive of us but what was lived in Charity. And let’s not forget, in times of darkness, when our dreams appear to have foundered, that it is then that He is most truly our King, that it is through the Cross that He will, if we let Him, truly reign.