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MK 11: 1-11 (17)
PALM SUNDAY...(Liturgy of the Palms)

I declare a personal agenda. Two, actually! My experience as parish priest led me long ago to two conclusions about Palm Sunday. The first, is that the reading of the long Passion narrative jumps the gun. Takes away the sense of liturgical suspense we need to build up over Holy Week. So, whatever the lectionary (or the bishop) says, why not keep the reading of the Passion proper till we enter the Triduum? Let it be sufficient today that Jesus enters into Jerusalem.

My second agenda is that so far as MK is concerned, to end the reading at v.11 is to be chicken- hearted & avoid (is it too hard?) the matter of the fig tree, not to mention the 'cleansing' of the Temple. Both have a lot to say about what's going on, so I suggest we read at least to v.17 to do justice to what MK is trying to show us.

How many people take part in the original Palm Sunday Procession is hard to tell. Probably less than in ours! If more than a handful or so over & beyond the apostolic band (were they all there, or did they have better things to do?) had followed Jesus into the city, it's inconceivable that the Roman garrison wouldn't have been called out, let alone the Temple police.

There is little agreement between the Gospels as to the order of events that follow. What are we to make of the fact that JN places the cleansing long before the entry? Is it simply that he wants to set Jesus' ministry from the very beginning in tension with the centralised religio-political powers? Why does MK have Jesus leave the Temple because evening's fast approaching & come back the next day? That smacks of practicality & may well be the best memory, the most accurate account of events. It doesn't seem to be important. What's important is that he does come back! Whichever way we jump in our various interpretations, here are some possibilities from MK:

           Jesus is making a head-on challenge to the Temple's centralised religio-political -economic power, both symbolic & actual, & this, together with his raising of Lazarus precipitates his Passion.
           His timing of his attack on the Temple as per MK's account. When is God's time for any challenging, cleansing, etc. we need to do? Attacking, even? By the way, waiting for God's time is not an excuse for doing nothing in the mean-time!
           His challenge to the way God's people do business, & the way systems sacred or secular (to which the sacred gives the nod!) usually discriminate against the poor & vulnerable - the very ones God has a special place in his heart for!
          The fig tree represents not just Israel of old, or at least its rulers, but the responsibility we all have as those God has chosen to bear fruit, in season & out of season.

This Palm Sunday can we get beyond a scrap of palm we never know what to do with, & a feel- good procession that leads to nowhere? At least let's hear where the Gospel is heading. Raise the issues & make the challenges Jesus himself does. Look to our fruitfulness. If we're unwilling, or not sure how to do any of this, maybe the place to put our Palm Cross is somewhere in our undies so that it makes us very uncomfortable until we do!