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Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord Printer friendly format
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 By Paul J. Ashton, Psy.D., D.Min.
Consultant to the VIRTUS® Programs


stained glass of Jesus carrying the crossChrist entered in triumph into his own city, to complete his work as our Messiah: to suffer, to die, and to rise again. Let us remember with devotion this entry which began his saving work and follow him with a lively faith. United with him in his suffering on the cross, may we share his resurrection and new life.

 
Liturgy of Palm Sunday
 
We made a good Lent and on Sunday we welcomed, proclaimed, and recognized Christ as our King and Victor—“Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” [Matthew 21:9] But the joy and celebration is bittersweet—it turns quickly to reveal the depth of Jesus’ passion for us made evident by the suffering and death He will endure on our behalf. We should remember that the passion and death of Jesus was not relegated to physical pain and torture, but also included the deep and cutting betrayal by His friends and the agony He endured knowing and seeing His own mother suffer the trauma of all she saw. We commemorate this week as holy marking these important days as life giving sacrifices by celebrating rites and rituals like no other we practice.
 
Holy Week reminds us of the depth of God’s great love and the pain His son, Jesus, suffered for each and every one of us. The liturgies and services we celebrate call to the forefront of our minds the fact that no matter what we do, no matter where we go, no matter how far we feel we have been pushed, taken, or strayed away, nothing can separate us from the Love of God. “No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 8: 37-39]
 
The crucifixes we hang on our walls and around our necks have become a symbol recognized throughout the ages of this great love. While we have become accustomed to them and experience the comfort of God’s Love through the symbol, the horrific suffering that Jesus embraced on a cross is a fact that we cannot overlook. The symbol has become comforting, but it is more than a mere gentle reminder. We gild crosses in gold and silver, and stud them with diamonds, but the reality and truth lie in its deeper significance. It is supposed to be as it was, and as uncomfortable as it is for us to embrace, imagine for a moment the torture Jesus, himself endured. We fix our gaze on the resurrection at all times, yet the paradox remains “…Through the Cross, Jesus brought Joy to the world.” [Good Friday Service] Sometimes, however, it is good for us to remain for a while with Jesus in His passion. It brings us closer to Him and allows us to share our own personal trials and sufferings.
 
It seems no coincidence that April, often the month when Holy Week and Easter are celebrated, is Child Abuse Prevention Month. It began humbly marked by an awareness week in 1982, but by presidential proclamation, Ronald Regan expanded the focus from awareness to prevention and announced April of 1983 as the first National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This year marks its 29th Anniversary.
 
Every April since has been a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse. In Child Maltreatment 2010 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau) it was reported that in 2010 in the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, an estimated 695,000 children were victims of child abuse; and 1,560 children died as a result of abuse or neglect. The majority of child abuse cases stemmed from situations and conditions that can be preventable when community programs and systems are engaged and supportive. A community that cares about early childhood development, parental support, and maternal mental health, for instance, is more likely to foster nurturing families and healthy children.[1]
 
The blue ribbon used to symbolize National Child Abuse Prevention Month is a practice started in Norfolk, Virginia by Bonnie Finney, a grandmother who lost her grandson, Michael Dickenson, to the horrors of abuse. She was known for driving around with a blue ribbon attached to the antenna of her van as a tribute to her lost grandson.
 
The symbols, rites and rituals of Passion Sunday and Holy Week, united with the symbol of the blue ribbon and all it represents point directly to God’s love for each and every one of us. Recalling Jesus’ passion reminds us that He suffers with Bonnie Finney, her grandson, Michael, and every victim of child sexual abuse known and unknown to us. Through our shared experience in walking the journey of Christ’s passion each year, we come forth with the message to all victims that they are not alone—Jesus knows their pain and lives through it with them. He agonizes each time any child or vulnerable adult is abused and all creation groans with the pain and suffering they endure.

We celebrate Passion Sunday and Child Abuse Prevention Month knowing that the daily cross we embrace is not an end, not death, or foolishness. It is complete and utter victory.
 
 
 

 

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