How to Live … and Die: Palm Sunday


Sister Stefanie’s preschoolers enjoy their own Palm Sunday procession.

By Sister Catherine Cleary, OSB

As a child, Palm Sunday was different and special, and not only because Easter was only a week away and our fasts from candy would end soon!

In our family, after church, we always spent some of the afternoon braiding palms and putting them in our rooms.

My father invited us to follow his grandparents’ Irish custom of using palms as protection against fire. Palm Sunday gave me a secure feeling of being in touch with my ancestors and pleasing my father, as well as an appreciation of a sacramental. Little did I realize the significance of Palm Sunday and its preparation for the Triduum, the 3 holy days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and  Holy Saturday preceding Easter Sunday.

As an adult, I now realize that the Holy Week readings of Paul and the Gospels teach us how to live and how to die. Paul’s letter to the Philippians reminds us that in  giving up everything, Jesus “emptied himself and took the form of a slave, accepting death, even death on a cross.”

What does that mean for us?

We are well fed, clothed and safe! But perhaps the Scriptures are here for us to measure how we conceive life; how we handle the daily ups and downs of being over looked, underestimated, bypassed, ignored, neglected, rejected. Our esteem and pride are wounded. We may be discouraged, hurt, starved, mocked or ridiculed.

Perhaps it is time to “empty” ourselves of extreme attachments to esteem and pride. Perhaps we are to live our lives dead to these self-aggrandizing tendencies.

As we work toward this humble and selfless response, let’s remember that as members of Christ’s Body, both our sufferings and our prayers affect the entire Body of Christ. There is no such thing as a private sacrifice or an individual prayer! That is, all of our actions rise up in union with everyone else’s … bonding and uniting with Christ’s own prayers and sacrifices. Everyone in the family of God is ONE!

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