Scripture Reflection for Palm Sunday, Year A
Last night I saw the film Noah starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, and I left the theatre thinking lofty thoughts about the darkness of death and the lightness of rebirth. The film (which you should really see) portrays the deterioration of an ancient society as its people are forced to deal with food shortages and global destruction by way of a flood. Then, there was the flood, and I do not want to spoil anything for you but everyone dies. Then, we see what happens after the flood waters subside, leaving Noah and his family with the task of rebuilding.
The film shows the dark side of humanity, the places we go when we are confronted by the possibility of “the end”. It also involves fairly graphic and unsentimental depictions of death, along with the associated feelings of pain, suffering and unimaginable grief. On the other side of the coin, Noah also shows what happens after the flood: The hope of rebirth.
This seems timely and appropriate to me as we observe Palm Sunday and hear the Passion of Jesus Christ read during today’s Liturgy of the Word. Like Noah’s knowledge of the impending flood, Jesus knew what was about to happen to him. He knew he was about to be betrayed by one close to him, deserted by his friends, and executed for treason. Through all of this, Jesus seemed to keep it together for the most part, although we know he also experienced human moments of fear and doubt before he died.
Jesus died, but we know that was not the end of the story. As we journey through Holy Week and the Triduum, we do so with the knowledge that there is light at the end of this story…that, in fact there is no end to the story. It is this promise of rebirth that I have come to love most about belonging to the Christian tradition. The Paschal Mystery carries with it the promise of new life. Of course, I know that when I die, my physical body will most likely remain where it is laid to rest. For now, however, I have learned that when my life is flooded by times of spiritual or emotional suffering, there is a greater story left to be told. We often hear that the most difficult times in our lives carry the greatest potential for spiritual growth, and although I believe this to be true, it does not make the pain and suffering less acute. It seems quite unfortunate, really. Just as Jesus cried out to his Father in anguish as his physical body experienced the final stages of death, we cry out when we suffer through the various difficulties of our human condition, maybe even feeling anger towards a God we feel has abandoned us. Noah? He probably experienced a few tense moments, but he also knew that eventually, the flood waters would subside and leave behind a fresh new page on which to continue the story.
To be continued…