Palm Sunday, marking Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem, is one of the days of the liturgical calendar where we usually see a great Mass attendance.
Palm branches are blessed and distributed to the congregation. We recall the people of Jerusalem shouting: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” (Mt. 21:9)
I often think of how the chant changed by Good Friday: “(The crowds) all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ But (Pilate) said, ‘Why? What evil has he done?’ They only shouted the louder, ‘Let him be crucified!’” (Mt. 27:22-23)
Drastic change in just a few day's time, wasn’t it?
Lest we think that we couldn’t turn our backs on Jesus as quickly, look at the Mass attendance on Palm or Easter Sunday compared with the numbers on a typical weekend Mass—even the week after Easter. Usually there’s a noticeable decline. Maybe it’s not as direct of a rejection as the crowds in Jerusalem, but it can be an ever-so-subtle denunciation that takes the shape of indifference.
Sometimes we might see as dramatic a change from the pews to the parking lot.
As Lent draws to a close, I invite you to participate in the Holy Week Masses and Liturgies that help us to focus on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
Holy Week and Easter should not be business as usual for Christians. If we believe that Jesus came to die for us and for our salvation, we need to put time aside to pray to and worship Him. From an eternal life perspective, what else can be more important? We can most fully appreciate and experience the joy of the Resurrection by participating in and meditating on the Passion and Death of the Lord.
I am continually edified that so many people take advantage of the Sacrament of Penance during the Lenten season. If you are one of those who waited to the last minute, I hope that you find the time before Easter to spiritually prepare. Nothing does the soul more good than an honest, genuine sacramental confession.
My hope and prayer is that the typical large congregations that we see on Palm Sunday or Easter will become the ordinary attendance at Mass each and every Sunday of the year.
Fr. Ed Namiotka