Holy week. Probably my favorite week of the year. I love the excitement and celebration surrounding Jesus’s triumphant return to Jerusalem. I love the promise of life that those green branches hold, especially after a long, cold winter. I love the bright red color on the altar and in the priests’ vestments. I love the procession in. In past years, I have celebrated Palm Sunday at St. Anastasia, where the procession includes kids and catechumens with loud clappers and everyone in the church waving their palm fronds. This Palm Sunday, I celebrated right after work at OLGC, at the 5 pm Mass. No one in church had any palms, and the only procession was made by the altar servers, Deacon Chris, and Fr. Clement. It felt like I was waiting for the Kings of Kings to pass me by.
But this week isn’t a week of all happy feelings. And this liturgy wasn’t all about being joyful. It was an emotional rollercoaster, to tell you the truth. Fr. Clement told us to pay particular attention to the Gospel today, lengthy though it was, and see what aspects of the story spoke to you. They wanted the parish to speak the part of the crowd during the reading of the Gospel.
I didn’t want to.
I didn’t want to choose Barabbas over Jesus. I didn’t want to call for his crucifixion. But I am obedient, and so I participate. But in my heart, as I was saying, “Crucify Him!” I was also saying, “Please, don’t!”
But then, I thought of how I do this all the time. I am constantly choosing something evil over Him. I am constantly scourging Him and putting Him on the cross, and then asking Him to forgive me my sins. It was such a poignantly sad moment, being a part of this Gospel reading and realizing how very much a part of the crowd I was… am.
There was no music for the recessional. The altar servers, deacon, and priest left quietly. Many people, perhaps unaware that they were supposed to wait for the recessional, began leaving while they were still gathering at the foot of the sanctuary. Not quite realizing the full import of what was occurring. How often do *I* realize the full import of the Mass or what Jesus did for me? Not nearly as often as I’d like to think.
So, quietly, I stood and watched as the procession passed by, reflecting on the joy, the sorrow, and the sober realization of my own failings, but with the hope and knowledge that something incredible is going to happen in a few short days.