At the crossroads


13 Mar 2024

Palm Sunday stands at the intersection of God’s world and of the human world.

For many, perhaps most, Australians, Palm Sunday is just a name, often associated with the start of the winter football season. But for Christians it marks the beginning of a week dedicated to reflection on Jesus. It culminates in Jesus’ death on Good Friday and his rising on Easter Sunday.

Palm Sunday marks Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the centre of Jewish faith. His entry was apparently mocking and frivolous, involving a donkey, a few followers and a raggle-taggle crowd singing and waving palms. As it took place before a feast that celebrated the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land, a time when hopes and fears of revolt were high, this apparently ridiculous gesture offered his enemies his self-signed death warrant. There was no way that the Romans and Jewish leaders would understand that his claim – that God’s promises to Israel would be fulfilled through him – was apolitical.

Seen through the Christian belief that we are saved through his death and rising, Palm Sunday stands at the intersection of God’s world – one of justice and goodness – and of the human world with its brutal political realities. Palm Sunday mocks the pretentions of power that consider only the expediency of its actions and not the human reality of the people affected by them.

Refugees today lie at the centre of that intersection. The vulnerable entry of Jesus into Jerusalem associates Christians with the equally vulnerable movement of so many people around the world, forced to flee from their own lands and seek protections elsewhere. Many of them, too, experience the same murderous abuse of power that later in the week Jesus experienced at the hands of the civil and religious powers.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he enjoyed the hospitality of small, powerless people and was duly crushed by the powerful rulers. On Palm Sunday we join Jesus’ entry into the city, the centre of power, and pray for and demand that the refugees, the little ones to whom Jesus came, receive hospitality from our nation. They ask for freedom from imprisonment, attention and justice in the hearing of their cases, and our cooperation with other governments to stop the making of refugees by war and exclusion, and to offer refugees freedom to live in the community and raise their families.

Christians also believe, of course, that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and dehumanising death were not the story of defeat and failure that they appear to be. On Easter Sunday he rose from the dead to turn defeat into victory and a resigned despair into hope.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ is an editorial consultant at Jesuit Communications
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