palm trees in front of my desert retreat house
Today is Palm Sunday on the Christian Calendar. When I was a parish priest we would often walk along the city streets of Los Angeles on Palm Sunday and carry palms along with placards announcing our protest against violence and oppression. Some of the placards would read: "help the homeless," or "feed the hungry," or "end racism in our city" or "justice for the immigrant."
I always felt that a protest march was extremely appropriate for Palm Sunday because that's what Jesus and his disciples were doing on that first Palm Sunday, 2000 years ago, when they entered into the city of Jerusalem.
The people of Jerusalem were used to grand processions in their streets - processions which proclaimed the might of the cruel and oppressive Roman Empire, soldiers on steeds, clad in armor and weapons, banners unfurled, bullying their way through the populace. Processions such as these were designed to intimidate the Jewish citizens. People on the streets would stop and bow down at their passing, terrified of the power of an empire who would crush anyone who got in the way.
Jesus enters Jerusalem along with his "rag-tag" bunch of followers. He sits on a lowly donkey. They are all carrying palm and olive branches and sing songs of peace and goodwill for all people. It's a protest march if ever there was one, flying in the face of the powers that be - enough to get you killed in fact.
As I walked out into the vast desert floor this morning, in my mind's eye I saw a procession walking by. In the procession was Jesus on the donkey, but along with him were all the great prophets of compassion from all places in all times. Jesus was walking with the Buddha and with Ghandi. I saw the great prophets of Israel who throughout the ages were a voice for the voiceless. I looked further and saw that Martin Luther King Jr. was in the march, and along with him was Susan B. Anthony and Harvey Milk. It was a grand procession, indeed.
Palm Sunday is a day to protest injustice, it's a day for a compassion procession. I want to join that march.
Long live the revolution!