Holy Week has begun. It is the busiest week on the church calendar with many services of remembrance of Jesus’ journey to the cross. Yesterday was Palm Sunday, a day marking Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem – that place where he was cheered the one day and jeered the next; that place where he spent his final days with his disciples and came face to face with his death. As a child I never really understood Palm Sunday. At church I joined the other children singing the festive songs and waving the palm branches. We had a Jesus parade and I loved parades! I equated the image of Jesus riding the donkey into Jerusalem with Santa Claus at the end of the Thanksgiving parade – he brought smiles to our faces; the “big man” was now here and all was right with the world. It was quite a festive time! Yet the story doesn’t end there and indeed all was NOT right with the world. Knowing what lies ahead puts a damper on the celebration – and I think it should. Thinking of Palm Sunday only as a parade takes it out of context and negates the events that led up to that day and those things that came after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
It is also easy for us to make Palm Sunday a pre-Easter celebration. We look ahead and we know the end of the story. It is tempting to just skim over the events in the middle of the week and go from celebration to celebration without experiencing the darkest part of the journey. Yet we cannot really understand Easter and celebrate the joy of the resurrection without experiencing the pain of Good Friday. We cannot fully understand the light unless we have experienced darkness.
When I was in El Salvador my group had the privilege of meeting Sister Peggy. This Sister of Charity went to war-ravaged El Salvador in the mid-80s at the height of the country’s armed conflict. She shared stories of absolute horror, some of which I will share at another time. But I will never forget one of the things she told us. She encouraged us to “live the lament.” The Salvadoran people experienced and lived with incredible and unimaginable pain. There is a Salvadoran saying, “We felt it in our very bodies; our own flesh.” Here in the United States we are focused on quick fixes; we long for ways to ease our pain and often go to great lengths and engage in damaging behavior to cover up our hurts. But that does not solve the problem or lead to healing. I have heard people in recovery and support groups say “You can’t heal what you don’t feel.” We would do well to “live the lament.”
So “live the lament” during this Holy Week. Sit in the darkness of Jesus’ death for then, and only then, can we experience the joy of resurrection.