Beyond Waving Palm Branches

by | Mar 26, 2021 | Formation, Reflections, Vincentian Family | 2 comments

Not Seeing Beyond the Palms In Their Hands

We live in troubled times… to say the least! So many critical issues. Such diametrically opposed proposed solutions. But… our times are not unlike Jesus’ times.

As on so many occasions in their history, Christ’s lifetime was not the best of times for the Jewish people. Their leaders were badly divided into Pharisees and Sadducees. Of course, there was also the ever-present thumb of Rome. One of the few things all Jews could agree on was that it was a mess. So, as throughout their history, they desperately longed for someone to lead them out of this mess… the Messiah.

Now, they were pinning their hopes on Jesus. He spoke often about the kingdom of God. In their minds, he would be the anointed political leader who would turn the world order upside down and Israel would be out from under… if not on top. No wonder they organized a triumphal parade… complete with palm branches!

Two different kingdoms

There was just one slight problem. When they heard the word kingdom, they heard something different from what Jesus was talking about. They could not get beyond the kingdom of their dreams. They would finally lord it over the Romans, etc.

Certainly, Jesus spoke often about the kingdom. Remember that Jesus’ spent three years preparing his early followers to understand and embrace God’s way of loving in this new world of the Kingdom of God. But even these devoted followers could not shake their thought patterns.

A telling example.  Peter had the right word — you are the Messiah or Christ. (Mark 8:27). But he had a woefully incorrect idea of what a Messiah would do. Peter had filled in the blanks from his mindset. He wanted a conquering hero, but here Jesus talked about suffering and death (verse 31). Peter, with zeal greater than wisdom, began to rebuke his own Teacher, as if he could teach the Messiah a thing or two. Jesus rebuked him sharply because he was thinking like a human (verse 33).

Palm Sunday shows the followers of Jesus still did not get it. Their kingdom was one made in their image and likeness.

The lesson of Palm Sunday for today

The blind spot of so many early followers of Jesus was rooted in their unrecognized mindset about the kingdom.

It is interesting to consider palm branches as symbols of our blind spots. So, I ask myself, what are the “palm branches” I wave today?

I am discovering this Lent that the beautiful parable of the Good Samaritan challenges the limits I unconsciously set on who is my neighbor and influences my politics.

My neighbor is not just those who are members of the various tribes I associate with who speak my language, share my religious or political belief, were born in my country. My neighbor can also be my enemy. Do I come to the aid of my enemy in need? If not, have I missed the point of what Jesus said?

Is my view of God’s kingdom any wider than that of the believing Jew 2000 years ago?

In the midst of a polarized nation, I ask if my palm branches are sometimes too red…  and at other times too blue? Do I align myself so closely with either of the day’s political parties that I cannot see their respective blind spots about what God’s Kingdom means today? Do I hold up the cross of God’s universal love?

Holding my “palm branches” today

  • How have I made God’s kingdom in my image and likeness?
  • How did Jesus treat even his enemies?
  • Who do I not treat as my neighbor?


  1. Tom McK

    Very fertile image. thanks.

  2. Sister Ann Mary Dougherty, DC

    I read all your reflections, but this one is particularly good. I am going to share it with my family. I have at least one sibling who struggles — as we all do — to relate to those who are not of her mindset. Thank you so much for all your reflections. May you have a very grace-filled Holy Week.