How will you use the branch?

By Linda Zahorik | For The Compass | April 7, 2017

The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.

A cute story on the Internet speaks of a little boy too ill to go to church on Palm Sunday. When other family members came home with palms, the little boy had questions. His father explained we have palms, because people waved when Jesus went past. The little boy replied, “Wouldn’t you know, the one Sunday I don’t go to church and Jesus shows up!”

On Palm Sunday, we do notice Jesus among us in a very vivid manner. As we march in procession, it is easy to imagine ourselves in that actual group of people that followed Jesus into Jerusalem.

The palm tree was vital to people of Jesus’ time. The coarse fiber was used to make brooms, baskets, sewing thread and rope. Palm oil was made into butter and soap. Palm seeds were used for medicine or left to dry to make beads. Perfume was made from the flowers and their dates were food. When the people laid palm branches at Jesus’ feet symbolically, they were giving up their possessions for his sake.

While we are in church most of us will simply fold our palm over holding both ends in our hand. Children of course will discover a palm branch makes a great sword and those of us with creative abilities will begin to turn the palm branches into a work of art. As you look around you on Palm Sunday you may see people folding their palms into a cross or weavng the palms into intricately beautiful designs. If you have access to a computer, search for a picture of our Holy Father on this Palm Sunday. Look at the palms he will be carrying. They will have been woven into a majestic work of art.

This Sunday, you will hold your palm branch as you listen to the Passion. Think of it as a visual symbol of the relationship you choose to have with Jesus Christ. As you heard earlier in the Processional Gospel of the Mass, people waved their branches in joy as they followed Jesus, they believed he was their king coming to save them, and they would follow him anywhere.

However, in the Passion you will hear that the soldiers struck Jesus. Some translations of the Scripture say “struck with a reed,” a branch, just like the branch you are holding. Think at that moment, “How often do you set aside your jubilant waving of branches before Jesus and through sin use the branch to strike him instead?”

During this Holy Week, meditate on what the palm branch says about your relationship to Jesus. Because the palms are blessed at the beginning of Mass, they are a sacramental. Give your branch a place of honor and respect in your home. Each day let it be a reminder that you have a choice in how you will relate to Jesus that day.

Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.

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