Then Jesus said to them, “This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed; but after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.”
The Liturgy of the Palms is one of the most emotional liturgies for many clergy members and the faithful.
While we know that this day marks Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we also know how the week will progress. It will later be marked by the betrayal of friends, a harsh night before false witnesses and a fixed court, mockery, a cold night in prison, the degradation in the Court of Pilate, crucifixion, death, and burial. These realities stand in stark contrast to this moment of joyous entry.
During the Liturgy of the Palms we hear the loud knock of the cross upon the door of the church. The doors swing wide and we enter as Jesus entered.
The congregation gathers around the church’s center aisle carrying palm branches. The veiled cross goes before us – always before us.
When we reach the center of the church we stop and kneel singing: Let us adore the Savior who rode in royal triumph into Jerusalem.
Then we progress to the front of the church, on the step before the altar, laying the Holy Cross down upon a pillow. We recall Jesus’ words: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed. As those words are sung we scourge the crucifix, a solemn, salient, and very emotional recollection that His triumphal entry leads to the pillar and the cross. This is sung three times. Three times we are brought to that moment in Jesus sufferings where our sin, our abandonment of Him wounded Him so deeply.
We now enter Holy Week and we are called to live very deeply in this moment. We are called to walk with Jesus not just in His moment of triumphal entry, but also through the entirety of His Holy Week journey.
Peter stood up to boldly say (as usual): “Though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be.”
We boldly say the same, and often fail as Peter did. Our faith is too often shaken and we, like Peter and the others, fail. We deny Him in big and small ways.
The key question for the week ahead and for the rest of our lives is: Will we persevere in our walk with Jesus daily? This Holy Week let us commit to walking with Him. Let us enter in triumph with Him today. Let us walk with Him to the upper room on Thursday, along the way of the cross on Friday. Let us walk to the tomb and wait there watching. Finally, let us take His hand on Easter Sunday and walk with Him into the promise of everlasting life.