Monday, March 29, 2021

How we understand the symbol of the Palm can greatly help us to attain spiritual greatness.

If you are reading this blog entry on the Monday of Holy Week, and have managed to go for Holy Mass over the weekend, you probably have a palm branch that was given to you at the Mass of Palm Sunday.  


I have always wondered if the laity really appreciate the deep significance of this blessed palm.  There are many Catholics who don’t really know what to do with these palm branches when they bring them home from church.  Some place them on their home altars, but aren’t quite certain of what purpose they serve, and it’s a pity.


Sure, we hold them aloft and wave them at the beginning of the liturgy of Palm Sunday to commemorate how Jesus was welcomed by the people of Jerusalem so jubilantly into the Holy City for the last time before Good Friday.  The waving of palm branches and even laying them on the ground was a sign of a hero’s welcome, often given to soldiers and warriors returning from a victory over the enemy.  Jesus was given a hero’s welcome, because many did think that he was the Messiah who would overcome the Roman occupiers of Palestine. 


It is for the same reason that many of the martyrs of the early church featured the symbol of the palm branch as well, signifying that they heroically died for their faith, and did not cave in to the pressure put on them to commit apostasy.  


All of us who are disciples of Christ are called to live with the same kind of heroism and courage.  Whilst not all of us may be called to die a martyr’s death, each time we die to sin and die to the self is a mini form of martyrdom.  We forget this easily because the ways of the world are always making this choice for God and for holiness a less attractive choice.  We need something that serves as a reminder to live our Christian lives with effort, and we can get this help from the way we display the blessed palm branches in our homes.


Placing the palm branch behind or near to the Crucifixes that adorn the walls of our homes serves to be a strong and symbolic reminder to be heroes of our faith in the big and small ways of our everyday lives.  Every refusal to give in to sin is a demonstration of how much we love God more than we love ourselves.  Looking at the palm branch together with the crucifix before we leave our homes each day will remind us that we are about to step onto the stage on which our Christian lives are on full display.  And this will apply to whether we are stepping out of our homes for work or for leisure.  


I have often overheard comments as the parishioners receive their palms in Church, and a common one is “please give me a small one”.  If these prickly palms are only something that we use as a prop for Passion Sunday, asking for a small palm is understandable.  No one likes big and cumbersome props.


But if the palms serve as a year-long reminder to live our Christian lives with a deep sense of purpose and sacrifice, we really shouldn’t just settle for ‘something small’.  We are called to imitate our Lord Jesus who went to the Cross out love for us, and it certainly was not ‘something small’.  


If we are having trouble with dying to sin and dying to the self each day, we really should be looking out instead for the larger and more visible palm fronds to speak louder to us to want to live our Christian lives with greater heroism.

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