This Sunday is Palm Sunday at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada. That is the Sunday the Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Easter crowd all come to Mass. It is also the Sunday us churchgoers at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral complain about the Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Easter crowd as they take all the good parking spaces and all the good seats in our pews. Luke 2:41-42 tells us, Jesus was part of that crowd, going to temple once a year, according to family custom.
We all go to Mass at our churches in Reno Nevada, not to receive the Physical Presence, in the readings and in the Eucharist, but to receive those nifty palm branches we can make those creative little crosses we hang in our cars and at our offices for the coming year. We forget the importance of what is going on in this all-important waving of the palms. The waving of the palms comes from Psalm 118, part of the Hallel Prayer recited by all observant Jews at Passover. Psalm 118 is also the psalm recited upon the coronation of a king in the Jewish tradition. King David came to Jerusalem humble and riding on an ass, for his coronation. Jesus comes to Jerusalem as a sign that he, not us, is king. We receive the palms to greet Jesus as king as he enters Jerusalem.
On Palm Sunday, we do not read the passage of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as the Gospel passage. We read of Jesus death. Matthew 25:31-26:1 is closer to what we read in year one of our liturgical readings at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada. The passage reads, “All the nations/ethnic will be assembled before him. He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Shepherds keep goats, peacocks, and dogs with their sheep to protect them. These animals do not like predators coming close so will attack them and drive them off. They are soldiers, and the police, on the ranch. Unlike sheep, which are fussy eaters, goats will eat anything and everything. Finicky eaters leave plenty left over for other sheep.
Goats are like the richest 20%of the population bringing home 71.5% of all income, leaving the poorest 50% of the population, the sheep, to live on 19% of all income. They are not interested in 50.2 million people living in food-insecure households, including 17.2 million children. Nor are they interested in the 12.2 million adults and 5.4 million children living in households with very low food security.
Conservatives like to quote Matthew 25:31-Matthew 26:1 as a passage applying only to abortion. There are many excellent and convincing biblical proofs that life begins at conception, this passage is not one of them. It states, “I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.” Pre-born people are not hungry, thirsty, strangers to be welcomed, or naked and able to be clothed. Their mother’s are. The heart of the passage as it relates to Palm Sunday is, “What you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ These will go off to eternal punishment, but the charitable to eternal life.” The next verse, Matthew 26:1 begins our Palm Sunday reading and the Passion. The message is clear, as we do to the least of these, the poorest among us; we participate in Jesus’ Passion.
That is why we wave the Palm branches as we read about that passion. We participate in the Mass, reading the role of the crowd that was so eager to wave the palm branches the week before the Passion, but who choose, Jesus Barabbas the violent one, the goat, over Jesus Bar Abba, Jesus, Son of the Father. As we read our role in the Palm Sunday reading at our Cathedral in Reno, God calls us to realize we are also a fickle people that can and do wave the palms on Sunday, then step outside and call for the heads of the poor, Jesus among us, the rest of the weak during the week. As we read the Palm Sunday reading God/Abba calls us to realize that he, not the market, is the Great Provider and we are the stewards called, as a nation, to feed, cloth, house, and visit the least among us. Call it Socialism if you like, but if so, our Blessed Virgin Mary, (Luke 1:51-53) Jesus and God, are Socialists.
Other great reading by the author