Palm Sunday, Virus 2020

(Videotaped Mass for Queen of Apostles Parish, Pewaukee, Wisconsin.)

Our holiest of days next week is not unlike the unholiest of a family’s yearly obligatory, optional dinner gathering.  It’s the Sunday Brunch!

It’s obligatory because it’s family, it’s optional but they’ll talk about you if you don’t show up. (“And, bring a casserole to pass!”) Let the drama begin.

Because of our present crisis, it will not occur this year in its full fashion. This year you settle on your hot ham and rolls with a limited number of people, some of us honoring that holy day alone. But that doesn’t discount our memories of past Easter Sunday’s banquet full of those strange people we swear we’re not related to but call “family.”

There’s the talkative aunt, thrice-married and now dating. (I thought “three was a charm!”) There’s that prodigal son, thirty-five-year-old son who returned home with his now, new fourth investment venture that “Really can’t miss”. There’s the quiet mother preparing supper and listening to the stories of others, no one asking her much about hers. In the corner of the living room is the baffled college-age daughter, excellent grades, but wondering whether to remain a Catholic or not. Dad’s seated in his favorite chair observing all this excitement around him. He hears half of it it and ignores the other. Stories and jokes are told that have been told every year. Conversations rise louder in equal proportion to the consumed alcohol. Dad’s tired from his week’s work but happy to, again, gather them all together. Children are running around the house wondering why all those old folks are interrupting their supper. Mom told them that it’s a special night, once a year, only every year.

Once a year we gather together all the characters that make up our dramatic Christian drama. We think there’s a central character, Jesus Christ. Yet, he’s surrounded next week by all kinds of sorts. There’s that guy running to the ER with a missing ear. Those folks warming around the fire asking the future pope to declare a faith he has yet to own. Then there’s that guy with clean hands shirking responsibility and setting Anthony Quinn free. And, how about that unbelieving guy with a sword at the end of our story who then becomes a believer? Those two fellows on each side of Jesus – you know the two of them. We behave just like them. They are how often us, all performed in one day. Of course, our drama would not be complete without the dude who proudly accepts thirty pieces when he could have easily gotten fifty. (Poor guy. Both lacking in belief and poor in business.) The gent toward the end of our story who offers his resting place for the killed King of the Jew. He’s last name sound like a gentlemen’s cologne.

Like those jokes from relatives, we hear words we only hear once a year – Kidron valley, scabbard (it’s a dagger), Caiaphas, praetorium, tethered, Barabbas, Stone Pavement, and the worst of all, yet the most saving and beautiful word is: “Golgatha.”

It’s family. During our lives, we can be all the characters in our Christian drama. When we finally come to our humble and worthy senses, then we can all turn to Golgatha, that place of transformation. That place when we finally connect and unite our earthly lives to our heavenly life in God. That’s family…and that’s a meal worth celebrating.

So, take your palm, I mean evergreen and wave away. This glorious gathering only happens once a year. And this is the year that none of us will never forget. If you have children, please take extra time to explain what’s happening to implant in their brains the uniqueness of this year’s Easter celebration and how it continues because of the strength of our Catholic/Christian faith.

Next week we get to gather together around our various technologies to relive the biblical family story that caused our redemption. It’s a yearly renewing adventure for us all.

But it is no longer the Biblical character’s adventure in faith; they did theirs. Theirs’ is done. It is all ours now, even during, no, especially during this weird period. It is ours, our very own personal and familial faith adventure; in this exact time and within our very lives. Even though we are unable to honor it together, as a community of faith, in this sacred, wooded place, this place we happily call our “parish home,” “our second home.”

(walking away, I return to say,)

Oh, I almost forgot. Don’t forget the name, Mary Magdalene…next Sunday, she gets dessert first.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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