Each week at mass we pray these words aloud in song or prayer…
Hosanna, in the highest!
Today the words take on a deeper meaning as we celebrate Palm Sunday, remembering Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
There are studies upon studies to reveal just what lengths humans will go to in order to avoid any kind of pain, physical, mental, or emotional. These words from an article in Psychology Today say something very important. While not intended to be spiritual, they orient those of us who are people of faith.
Using blame, denial, or avoidance to numb or elude pain not only causes suffering, it cuts us off from our basic humanity. We cannot recognize the pain of others when inured to our own.
How we ignore, avoid, deny, and frequently blame in order to escape any suffering. Also, consider the opioid crisis, or any addiction for that matter. At the root of all of is is some hole that cannot seemingly be filled and pain that cannot be faced.
We are really good at wanting others to suffer however. Aside from the preponderance of ideas that would make people who are already poor and ill work in order to get health insurance coverage, we consider policies that decimate meal programs, and a myriad of other dystopian and draconian designs that crush others. Like the old Smiths song says, “you just haven’t earned it yet, baby.” We are quite happy it seems to push the suffering onto others, narcissistically imagining that we do not deserve such a fate!
Then we go to church, smug and satisfied that we have somehow done more to earn God’s love and salvation, not like those “other” people. That sound you just heard was my very deepest sigh. Honestly – we have probably all had some moment of pride, maybe more than a moment if we are facing the truth.
Yet the curious thing is that we worship a God who willingly accepted suffering and death. The Philippians hymn, as it is known, will be proclaimed in church this weekend, reminding us of this.
…he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Suffering is one of the most, if not the most, unifying condition of humanity. Rich or poor, black or white, straight or gay, citizen or immigrant, old or young, when it comes it comes without prejudice. Suffering is part of life. What we do with suffering makes the difference.
On his way to his own suffering, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, palms waving from those who lined the way. He did not flinch. Pay attention to the first reading today, from Isaiah.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.
Walking head on into the pain without hesitation. A reminder of who we are and what we are called to do. We may love to chant and sing and pray Hosanna, but do we consider its meaning? Beyond praise, this word cries out to God to save us. Of course God has saved us and will save us, but it is not without cost. We are called to walk the same path as Jesus, not choosing our own suffering, but yielding to what we encounter, trusting God to lead us through. Abandonment (see today’s psalm) is a natural feeling in response to our fear, our pain, our despair, but trust found beyond is the place of God.
It is not easy, in fact it can feel impossible. However our continued turning towards God, and our continued openness to reveal and express our pain, our sorrow, our shame will open us and set us on the path. We must also experience God in the form of others who come to our aid, often unwanted and rejected by us, but who are sent to guide us on our way.
Crying out “HOSANNA” and waving our palms is a step into that place of vulnerability, pain, and ultimately a leap into the place of grace where suffering expressed is suffering healed. Are we willing? Jerusalem is our goal, but our goal means accepting and even welcoming, the place of death as a path to the promise of new life. New life indeed awaits us! Let us set our eyes upon it, and together make our way to that destiny. It is the only road to accepting the redemption and salvation that Christ has already given us.