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Palm-Stabbing Sunday, Sacramentals, and an Intro to Holy Week

Today is Palm Sunday. It’s the day upon which we recall Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, listen to the ( L O N G ) Gospel description of His passion and death, and, if you’re like me, try to keep your kids from stabbing each other with their palms.

Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey. This is in fulfillment of the prophecy, “Fear no more, O daughter Zion; see, your king comes, seated upon an ass’s colt.” (John 12:15) It’s also meaningful; Jesus is not a conquering king, with a nationalistic earthly agenda, riding in on a war horse. Jesus is the King of Peace, riding in on a gentle donkey.

We, the faithful, are given palm fronds (or some other type of branch in some places) in imitation of the crowds who lined the streets that day, waving palms as symbols of peace and victory.

The palms are blessed, and, as sacramentals, are meant to help dispose us to better receive the graces of the Mass and the Eucharist. (Catechism of the Catholic Church §§ 1667, 1670) Because of this, they shouldn’t be thrown away. (Code of Canon Law, #1171) They can be folded into crosses or other decorative shapes (or not) and tucked into car sun visors or behind picture frames, or buried, or burned at home, or brought back to church to be burned to make ashes for Ash Wednesday next year.

The Gospel reading for today spans the events of the upcoming Holy Week:

From Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Sunday, to the unnamed woman who anoints Jesus with costly perfumed oil, and Judas’ dastardly deal with the chief priests on Spy Wednesday . . . .

To the Last Supper, and the institution of the Eucharist and the sacramental priesthood, and the Agony in the Garden, and Judas’ betrayal with a kiss on Holy Thursday . . . .

To Jesus’ trial before the high priest, and Peter’s betrayal, and Jesus’ trial before Pilate, where we, the crowd, who cheered Jesus with our palms a few days ago, now shout, “Crucify Him!” and demand the release of Barabbas instead, and the Crowning with Thorns, and the Scourging at the Pillar, and the Carrying of the Cross, and the Crucifixion and death of Our Lord, and the laying in the tomb, all on Good Friday.

Palm Sunday is our day to rejoice in the majesty of the Lord, and also to prepare ourselves for the sorrowful journey of Holy Week, and the glorious day of the resurrection that is almost here.

Are you feeling prepared for Holy Week? Let the Gospel reading sink in so you can make way in your heart for Jesus Our Risen Lord on Easter!

Kendra Tierney is a forty year old mother of nine and wife of one living in and working on a big old fixer-upper house in Los Angeles. She’s a homeschooler and a regular schooler and is counting down the days until her oldest turns sixteen and can take over some of the driving! Her new book about living the liturgical year in the home is in the editing process. You can find her first book, A Little Book About Confession, here, her blog here, and her word art here.

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