Palm Sunday, 2020
As I read today's traditional reading from the Book of Matthew, I caress my own soft palm leaf. I can smell the life it held. It is a soft, woodsy smell, missed by most people or overpowered by the rest of the world's odors. With the sanctuary nearly empty, only a few sit adoringly gazing upon you, I am spiritually transported to Jerusalem.
I hold in my hand the palm frond. I am working beside others to pave the way for you, leaving branches and cloaks for your beast of burden to tread.
I don't stop to ask anyone why we do this. It seems a bit silly to be covering the road. But, I continue anyway. The air around me is stifling.
I am small so I have to keep working to stay in front of the crowd if I am going to even get a glimpse. Rumors fly through the crowd like birds. Someone reports seeing you. Another voice cries doubt you will come this way. Others yell at the crowd, telling everyone there is no hope of a messiah. The crowd continues to grow, surging left, right, and then forward.
It feels like several lifetimes of anticipation have built up to this one moment. I am nearly crying because my heart feels so fragile, but I hold it in, not wanting others to see my weakness. Then someone stomps on my bare foot. The pain is excruciating and I look down, almost crumpling where I stand. The incident lasts only seconds.
I take a deep breath, straightening up, ready to scold the offender. When I look up, there you are. I am frozen in place. Everyone around me is frozen in place. Collectively, we have stopped breathing. You are still at a distance, coming up the palm and cloak covered road. My mind registers you are riding on a small donkey, a colt, but I cannot take my eyes from you.
My sight blurs and now I am crying. The tears create a mirage behind you. You glow from the mix of sun, dust, and tears.
Wait. There is no dust! The branches and cloaks have a practical purpose. There is not dust kicked up and I can all SEE you, all of you, even with tears in my eyes.
I have waited so long. Generations have passed waiting to see you fulfill every passage, every prophetic story, I was ever taught. As you get closer, I see you clearer. It wasn't a tear-created illusion. You actually glow!
Now you are passing by me. I could reach out and touch you. I do not. I am afraid. I am not worthy to touch the Messiah.
The moment passes and so do you. I now see your back as you continue to move toward the Temple. You glow from the back as well.
I managed to keep my place in front of the crowd, despite the crushed toes, and I actually felt your presence as you passed. I felt it physically, like a mother's gentle nuzzle of her baby's cheek, the fluttering of a moth's wing around candlelight, or a breeze on a warm summer night.
My worry, my anxiety vanished at your touch. I believe those around me felt it, too. They seem as momentarily stunned as I am.
Then there are voices. Voices of doubt saying "He doesn't look like a messiah." "How is he going to defeat the Romans? He has no weapons." People start to move away, gathering their cloaks from the road. Many seem almost disgruntled.
I am confused. Did they not feel your touch as you moved past them? Perhaps they were too far back in the crowd to feel it.
I still watch you as you make your way up the road and eventually move out of sight. The feeling of peace and calm lingers for me, despite what the others are saying.
Eventually, I returned home, compelled to pray to God for your future. These are the words my heart spoke to God:
Lord, I am a simple woman but I felt your presence today. I know he is your messiah, your anointed one. I do not know what the coming days hold for him or for us, but I pray you will deliver your people from our tormentors. I pray this man, Jesus, is truly your son and his work will change the hearts of all men and women, returning their eyes and hearts to right worship of you, Oh Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Amen.
This alter crucifix hangs in the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity in Fatima, Portugal. The entire alter is a splendor to behold as hinted by the wall behind the crucifix.