I don’t know what Palm Sunday means for you, but for me it’s a little bit of a jumbled combination of things. It means the proclamation of the Passion during the Gospel at Mass, it means the reception of new palms to be brought home and placed behind the crucifixes all around the house, it means the beginning of Holy Week, and it means somehow that it’s time to “turn toward Jerusalem” and consciously ready myself for the celebration of the Paschal Triduum beginning on Holy Thursday.
But Palm Sunday has many other meanings as well, particularly if we look carefully at what exactly happened upon Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict tells us that the acclamation “Hosanna!” had many different connotations for first-century Jews. He says it was “an expression of the complex emotions of the pilgrims accompanying Jesus and of his disciples,” namely joyful praise of God, ardent hope that the coming of the Messiah was imminent, and fervent prayer that the arrival of this King would be the definitive beginning to God’s everlasting reign over Israel. As I read this, I ask myself, “What are the complex emotions of this pilgrim—myself—as I accompany Jesus today?” Yes, there is much joy in the praise of God and all the ways He continues to bless me, there is certain hope that He will fulfill all His promises to me and to our world, and there is indeed fervent prayer for all that requires His power, His grace, His touch. There are a few other emotions mixed in there, too, as I’m sure there are for you. A bit of fear about all that is uncertain or painful in my life, a bit of anxiety over all that is stressful, a bit of negativity that I’d rather not own up to. But all of these put together make up the “me” that celebrates Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and I shout with all other pilgrims of “complex emotions” down through the centuries and even down through the pews, “Hosanna to the King of David!”