Christianity marks Palm Sunday

Published April 10, 2022, 7:02 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Today, the whole of Christendom celebrates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, as he was welcomed by a crowd swinging palm branches while exclaiming, “Hosanna!” For every Christian, this event is a double-edged sword. It is a celebration, yes, but also a prelude to the holiest of days in all of Christianity, one that goes through suffering.

In a sense, it seems to observers a strange celebration. Why would anyone excitedly anticipate days leading to suffering? Palm Sunday is even a culmination of 40 days of preparation, days premised on sacrifice and self-denial.

All its meaning, of course, would be lost if not considered under spiritual eyes. The value of Palm Sunday—indeed, the value of Lent and the Holy Week—is anchored on another celebration, Easter.

But whether one is a Christian or not, there remains to be lessons worth picking up from Palm Sunday. For one, courage. Jesus, who many believed then to be their “messiah,” entered Jerusalem knowing what it was he would face in the coming days. He did not let his knowledge paralyze him in fear. Instead he pressed on, confident but also afraid, as would be revealed on the evening of what we now commemorate as Maundy Thursday.

Curious, isn’t it, how knowledge can both be a mover and a stopper. Knowledge can be powerful enough to propel a person to pursue particular goals. But knowledge can also paralyze, if one becomes afraid of what “knowing” can bring or lead to. Information, which is at the core of knowledge, if not processed properly can end up debilitating.

But like Jesus in Palm Sunday, even when faced with a frightening future, he walks on, amid cheers that would turn into jeers just a few days later.

And then there’s the crowd. One can get lost in the sound of the cheers, the euphoria of the moment. In today’s world, the crowd has moved to social media. When one is more equipped to have information, to refine one’s knowledge of things, the irony is that a lot still gets lost in the “screams” of the social media mob. There is safety, perhaps, in being part of the many. This group mentality, reinforced by the inherent anonymity of being online, can easily turn into something dangerous.

As in the case of Palm Sunday, the same crowd that had initially welcomed the messiah would then become the group that wanted him crucified. And in the noise of a group, in the din of voices screaming seemingly in unison, the individual fears to surface. Individual knowledge, too often, gets silenced because of fear of being identified, of being different from among the many.

This Palm Sunday, as Christianity celebrates the coming of the messiah with a joyous welcome, may one not get lost in the crowd. In the end, wouldn’t it be better to be part of a group without losing one’s individuality?