Set Your Face To Jerusalem

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By Carolyn Shields

Growing up…you know, until about a year ago, I always took Palm Sunday at face value: an extra long Mass, shifting my weight from foot to foot during the long readings, wrapping the palms around my finger during the homily, and maybe by the end of the day, I finally put on my game face for Holy Week.

For some reason, I’m always so distracted on this Sunday. It catches me off guard or I’m transported back into grade school coloring pictures of Jesus on a donkey. But when I took the time to pray Lectio Divina with the readings for Palm Sunday, things got real, real fast.

This week I would like to share bullet points (because there’s quite a few), from the readings when Jesus enters Jerusalem.

The Donkey

  • We read that no one ever sat on the donkey. Why? Was something wrong with it? Why was it avoided? Why that donkey?

  • Why not a “noble steed?” Or a camel or something? Why a little colt?

  • Imagine when the owners are told that the Lord has need of their donkey. Would our response be, “Uhm…but I haven’t even sat on it yet.” Or would we say “Yes, yes! Go for it!” What is God asking us to give Him? And what is our response?

Praise

  • My poor Lectio group…sometimes I go totally spacey on them and ask things like “What even is praise?!” Is it like a natural response? Is it something that requires work? Something that comes at a cost? What does “a sacrifice of praise” even mean? Sometimes my mind gets blown by these things, and we see the people of Jerusalem in full on praising mode.

  • They praise Him with their words (and palms) but also throw their cloaks on the ground. I never quite understood that, but maybe love looks irrational sometimes. Maybe praise should cost us something, like our words are beautiful but showing that love and praise by offering or sacrificing something says more.

  • Jesus says, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” Why stones? They’re about the most inanimate object in existence, right? So what does that say?

Going In

  • Like, all in. I don’t think this has ever set in for me until now: that Jesus was entering Jerusalem and wouldn’t come back out. Can you imagine that high level of sensitivity that must have been storming inside Him, and here Jesus is being adored and praised like a humble king, but days later these people will condemn him. My natural response to any type of situation that may require a goodbye is withdrawal. It’s like a defense mechanism, but Jesus was all in. When he was happy, His joy overflowed to the people of Jerusalem. And when He was serious, He stared down the table at His disciples with a steady gaze, bread and wine in hand. When He was in the Garden, His anguish was all consuming. He was fully present, fully being, until the very end. And that’s why I think Palm Sunday is not out of place but so necessary, to have this moment of intense joy before the darkness erupts.

  • And lastly, my favorite reflection from this Sunday is the line “He set His face to Jerusalem.” Jesus saw the city on the hill and knew that that was the place where He could love the most. When we are at a loss, or when discernment has got you running circles, set your face to Jerusalem. Simply ask yourself where you might be able to love the most, and go there.