By Jenna Ebener
Every Palm Sunday, I know I am going to hear the account of our Lord’s passion. Each year, I dread my role as a member of the crowd, having to encourage Jesus’s crucifixion by saying things such as “Crucify him!” It makes my heart so sad to watch the condemnation of Jesus. I found it hard to fulfill my role as a member of the crowd, that is, until last Palm Sunday. Last year, instead of attending Mass with my family and having a big get-together after, I watched Mass with my grandma on her couch because of COVID-19.
As the Passion of Christ was read aloud, I found myself oddly missing reciting my lines with the rest of the parishioners. As much as I hated shouting, “Crucify him!” I realized how essential our role is as the crowd. None of us likes to think that we contributed to Jesus’ death, but the stark reality is — we did. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all humankind. He died not only for the sins that had already been committed, but also for the sins that would be committed in the future, for our sins. We may not be actively renouncing Jesus, but each of our sins is still a slam of the hammer on the nail in Jesus’ hands and feet.
It is humbling for me to acknowledge this truth, for I realized how ignorant I had been. We are not meant to like shouting, “Crucify him!” We are meant to acknowledge the role we had in Jesus’s death. All humans need to be saved from sin.
So, this Lent I am trying to face my sins head on more than ever. I am also trying to keep Jesus’ perspective at the center of my being. Jesus suffered death to save us because he loves us. Do we see that love? Or do we only see his suffering? It is always hard for me to read about or watch movies about Jesus’ passion because I feel overwhelmed by the self-giving love that leads to his suffering. I am now striving to focus on the meaning of self-giving love that often leads to a dying to self, which is hard.
I am trying to find this love in everyday occurrences. When I see a mother suffering because of the death of her child, I am striving to feel her pain but also her love for her child and to be grateful that I can offer a small source of comfort. When a student is in the hospital, I make myself turn away from the fear of death and instead embrace the love that comes from seeing an entire school rally around that student and family. I open my eyes to see that self-giving love often leads to suffering but it is also the source of healing, gratitude, community and so many other positive things.
So, let us remember Jesus’ passion this Easter season and the power of his love. Jesus suffered out of love for us, which ultimately led to our salvation. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).
(Jenna Ebener, who has a Master of Social Work from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with medical needs.)