Ah yes, Palm Sunday, the day we get to distract ourselves in Church by making intricate and beautiful palm crosses instead of paying attention to the long-winded sermon of our pastor, who is taking advantage of the packed Church to fit everything he can into his homily. Ah yes, Palm Sunday, the Mass with the extra-long Gospel reading which recounts a story we’ve already heard hundreds of times and already know the ending to. But perhaps I’m being too cynical? Could there actually be something new, something life-changing that God has for us this Sunday?
Before we get into the Gospel reading for Palm Sunday, it’s important to remember some of the things leading up to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In Matthew 16:15-16 Jesus asks his disciples the question, “Who do you say that I am?” and Simon Peter answers “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus, obviously pleased with this answer, tells Peter “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
This is helpful to remember because Jesus just gave one of the most important jobs ever to Peter, a man who shortly after this, in today’s Gospel reading, would go on to deny ever knowing Jesus. Peter, the one who stepped up and said, “You are the Messiah”, the one to whom Jesus grants the keys to the kingdom of heaven, is still human. He is still subject to weakness and fear. And so were all the Saints – and so are we. God expects great things from us, and if we choose to follow Him, He gives us great responsibilities. On one hand, we can proclaim with our lips that Jesus is Lord and on the other hand, still suffer our human frailty and fall into sin. But Peter’s denial of Jesus shouldn’t be a sad story for us – it should be a sign of hope for us that even though we can sin and give in to weakness and fear, we still, even in our darkest moments, have the potential to become Saints. After Peter’s denial he eventually went on to become the first Pope and was martyred for his faith and is recognized as one of the greatest leaders of the Church. Similarly, God expects and is asking great things from us. The goal is nothing less than sainthood. We shouldn’t let that scare us or give in to false humility or thinking things like “Well I’m no saint” because maybe you are. Hopefully you are! That doesn’t mean we can’t mess up – sometimes in really big ways. But, as long as we continue to seek out God and ask for His mercy and forgiveness then we are on the road to sainthood. God’s vocation for us is the same vocation that Peter and the other apostles had. He expects no less from us than He did from them – Holiness and Sainthood. That is who we are called to be and that is how we are supposed to live. Not with pride that says “I’m holier than thou” but with gratitude and humility that God would choose to use such broken vessels as ourselves to build His kingdom.