I was delighted to write a reflection for the Lenten series from the Jesuit School of Theology in Lent 2023. This one is a different take on a traditional Palm Sunday Gospel passage.
There’s so much darkness in the Gospel passage for Palm Sunday. All the worst of our human tendencies are here: betrayal, mockery, torture…
But where is the light?
How I wish our traditional Gospels had spent the same word count detailing the movements and happenings with the faithful ones leading up to the arrest and trial of Jesus: the women, Simon of Cyrene and Joseph of Arimathea. These characters do the opposite of the Official Disciples: they show up. They help. They pay attention. They stay together. They are models for how we who witness the paschal mystery today.
I imagine these women as they packed up from the Passover supper, strategizing about what came next. They knew what was going to happen to Jesus. He had told them explicitly many times. They were preparing to witness the paschal mystery unfold right in front of them.
I see these faithful ones leaning heavily on each other to labor through this excruciating death. I imagine them packing provisions for the journey to Golgotha, sleeping in shifts, gathering burial supplies, praying.
I imagine them getting word of Peter’s behavior in the courtyard outside the farcical trial. Peter was losing it. They understood. But they also knew it was their role not to lose it. They needed to stick together. They could not do it solo. Perhaps it was Peter’s self-imposed exile from the community that was his gravest mistake.
We too come face to face with the paschal mystery often. Whether it’s something singular and personal like the passing of a loved one or a divorce or something enormous and communal like the lurching decline of our Church, we can learn from the women, Simon of Cyrene, and from Joseph of Arimathea. Pack provisions. Help the suffering. Rest in shifts. Use our resources. And perhaps most importantly, stick together. The witnessing process may be brutal, but it is only bearable, only possible, in community.
God, help us to stick together, leaning on each other as we face the excruciating task of bearing witness to life, death, and resurrection. Amen.