In my hand are a couple of long, stiff, green-yellow palm fronds. They don’t wave easily by themselves, so I move my hand, as stiff as the palm fronds, to make them sway as they might have centuries ago, when Jesus entered Jerusalem. The movement of my hand stirs up pain in my wrists, a reminder of the arthritis there, and I nearly lose my grip on the fronds. Sitting, then standing, then sitting at the beginning of the service is a struggle as stiffness and soreness make such movement challenging. During the reading of the gospel telling of Our Lord’s Passion and death on the Cross, when we in the congregation are asked to kneel, I try, wince at the pain radiating from my knees devoid of cartilage, and manage a quasi-bow, going only so far so as to avoid an incident of choking or worse due to my several esophageal problems. During the aprt of the Mass where we are to give one another the Sign of Peace, I smile, but avoid touching others to try to keep from exposing myself to germs, a greater possibility the longer I am on my immunosuppressive medication regimen. My friends smile back, understanding. Strangers may or may not be so kind, even in church, but I try not to let some disappointed or affronted stares take me out of the service to a place of frustration.
When the service ends, I chat a little with friends and then make for home, the fronds still in my hand. They will take their place in a vase with others now brittle and blanched of color. Rminders of past years of similar pain, but also profound hope.
Palm Sunday, as with other religious services we attend, can be particulalry painful for us. But as we suffer through, we are also uniquely positioned to be close to Jesus, who suffered even more for us, among us. And as we move through the readings and the ritual, we can focus on Our Lord’s Passion in a particularly poignant way: For every twinge we feel, we are even more in communion with Jesus. And we know that the pain of His suffering is not an end – for Him or us. It is a brilliant, and hopeful beginning,