The palms hanging from our rear view mirrors and over our doors at home; our crucifixes hanging from our necks; our rosary rings and bracelets that spoke of our devotion to the Blessed Virgin, are the public manifestations of the faith we hold so dearly.
Today however, there are no Palm Sunday processions, there is no-one singing ‘Hosanna’ and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. Today no-one sees our crucifixes or our rosary rings.
Today there is only silence, an eerie silence that recalls the Advent hymn: “O come divine Messiah, the world in silence waits the day, when hope shall sing its triumph and sadness flee away.”
In this period of exile from our churches, when we are physically unable to share in our Eucharistic communion, the Catholic community is being called to a deeper encounter with the crucified Christ.
Like the palm branches that littered Jerusalem’s streets after Jesus’ triumphant entry, we must become the visible signs of Christ’s presence long after He has gone, not inside the church, but outside, in our families, in our schools and workplaces, in our communities, in our country.
This desert experience has brought home in a most poignant manner the fact that we are called to be Church both inside and outside the building.
The strict measures imposed on the country as a result of this COVID-19 pandemic demand a greater sense of personal responsibility from us all.
The admonition to stay home, to isolate and quarantine where necessary, in the absence of a declared state of emergency, demands that every single citizen demonstrates a greater degree of caring, not only for himself, but for neighbour as well. Isn’t that what Jesus has called us to do for centuries now?
This pandemic has certainly challenged us to be more appreciative of those whom we previously deemed ‘non-essentials’ in our society—our garbage collectors and sanitation workers, our cashiers and packers at the supermarkets, our bus and taxi drivers, all those men and women who have existed on the peripheries of our society for ages, grossly disrespected and easily cast aside. Today, we have a deeper sense of respect and gratitude for them. Isn’t that what Jesus has called us to do for centuries now?
As we recognise today, Palm Sunday is not only about waving palms and grand processions. It is about recognising Jesus as the King who saves and the servant who teaches.
Maybe after this crisis is over, and before we lurch into the next, we will build more communities than churches, we will strengthen families instead of deifying individualism, and we will accept our individual responsibility for the building of God’s kingdom right here on Earth.
May we, as Church, use this time of crisis, to deepen our faith in the God who remains the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. May we today still sing our Hosannas, mindful that we are Church, both inside the building and outside, with or without palms.