Bishop Christopher Glancy, CSV, taught at Saint Viator High School in the 1980s and most recently served as Auxiliary Bishop in Belize, Central America. Here, he reflects on Palm Sunday:
“This is one of the Sundays that has touched the popular imagination and draws people to Church. It is the beginning of Holy Week. We get to hear the proclamation of the passion of Jesus leading to his greatest sign: the proclamation of God’s love, Jesus’ death on the cross. Another unique sign of this Sunday is that the people of God receive a blessed palm branch. It is a sacramental sign of the joyful procession of Jesus and his disciples into Jerusalem.
“I heard a story a few years ago from the people who live in the Amazon River basin in Guyana. It is called the story of the creation of music. One day in a remote village a young man arrived when the sun was setting. He was from an unknown place beyond the sunrise. When he arrived the people were gathering around the village camp fire. He asked if he could join them, and if he could give them a gift, the gift of music. That night he began to sing one of his songs. The people were amazed and enchanted by the beautiful songs that he sang. Each day he would work with them in fishing, farming and the other tasks of the village. At night he sang and taught them to sing. After a number of weeks some people of the village noticed that a few of their villages had died in recent weeks. They began to ask why. Some came to the conclusion that the newcomer was the reason. After talking around, they agreed that the newcomer had to die, so they went to explain it to him. The man who taught them music did not argue with the villagers. He only requested that he be allowed to die in the fire. That evening the fire was prepared in the center of the village. The man was tied to a stake in the middle of the fire. The interesting thing is that he did not remain silent. From the midst of the fire he sang his most beautiful song. Many had tears as they listened to him give his last lesson. Even more curious is that from the ashes of that fire a large tree grew. Today from that tree the people of that village make their flutes. That is the story of the creation of music.
“It is not too difficult to see the connections of this traditional village story with the Passion of Jesus. It seems to me that Jesus did not stop teaching when he was nailed to the cross. From the cross he taught the most beautiful lesson of all. He told us of the strength of God’s love. He proclaimed that the love of God, the mercy of God, the life of God is stronger than even a cruel, unjustified execution, even than death.
“We Viatorians — travelers, pilgrims, disciples of Jesus the Christ— live this passion and cross of Jesus each year. Passion Sunday is one way that we do this. This Paschal Mystery unfolds in ever greater detail during the Easter Triduum. These are the three most sacred days of our liturgical year. Beginning on Holy Thursday evening with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, continuing through the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday and on to the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil the people of God live again the central mystery of our faith. None of these days are holy days of obligation (Though the Easter Vigil does fulfill the Sunday obligation). No one is required to come to church these days. It is good that we are not obliged to be there. As a Viator, a disciple, a pilgrim I do not know where else I would want to be. Now that we have made a good start of it with Passion Sunday, we are ready to live intensely the paschal mystery throughout this Holy Week. Perhaps we can learn to sing with our lives this most beautiful of songs, the paschal mystery, the mystery of Christ’s love.”