Growing up, I always looked forward to the celebration of Palm Sunday. I loved the eye-catching young coconut leaves designed into crosses, flowers, birds and insects; the blessing of the palms by the pastor mounting a horse; the procession of the neatly-dressed 12 apostles; and, the appearance of children donning their white garments and improvised wings to resemble angels, among many others. These representations add color and excitement to the liturgical celebration.
I missed such spectacles these past two years because of the pandemic, but in a sense, it was also providential because we had more time to focus on the essentials, to rediscover the centrality of the cross and to ask ourselves: “In the course of time, what has changed in me?”
Sad to say that the people who had palms in their hands on that day changed dramatically over a short period of time. Those who greeted Jesus in exultation as He entered Jerusalem shouting “Hosanna,” were also the ones who cried in indignation: “Release Barabbas” and “Crucify him!” after a few days.
But it is not only the public who changed. Those closest to Jesus also did. Peter, who promised to be loyal to His master, denied Him three times shortly after, not to mention Judas whose feet the Lord also washed. The other disciples slept while He was praying and eventually abandoned Him, except for the disciple “whom Jesus loved.”
Why the sudden change? From gratitude to hatred; from peace to violence; from hospitality to rejection; from solidarity to self-preservation; and from a community of believers to an unruly mob of skeptics and deserters. Is it really our human nature to retrogress?
From respectful children to impatient sons and daughters towards the imperfections of our aging parents. From friendly and non-judgmental kids to fault-finding and self-sufficient adults.
From being demonstrative of one’s love during courtship and the first years of marriage to being inexpressive of one’s affection as time passes by. From being devout believers in times of plenty and wavering in one’s faith in times of tribulation.
From simple seminarians that once we were to sophisticated priests. From obedient novices to being choosy in one’s missionary assignments after years in religious life. From reluctant superiors at the beginning to leaders who find it difficult to let go of power at the end of the term. From ordinary priests who loved the poor to distant bishops loved mostly by the rich.
From idealistic young men and women marching on the streets during the dark years of martial law to becoming enablers of the power that be. From promising young public servants to astute politicians who keep on promising. From protectors of truth to purveyors of fake news.
But there were also a few who changed for the better. One of them is the condemned thief hanging on Jesus’ side who was remorseful and begged for remembrance. And the women at the foot of the cross who remained steadfast in their faith. Foremost of whom was Mary, our Mother.
So, what has changed in you over time?
Fr. Elias L. Ayuban, Jr., CMF, JCD, is currently the Provincial Superior of the Claretian Missionaries of the Father Rhoel Gallardo Province in the Philippines and a Board Member of the Conference of Major Religious in the Philippines, formerly known as the Association of Major Superiors in the Philippines. He served as canon lawyer at the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and professor of canon law at the Claretianum in Rome.
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