Gospel Mk 11, 1-10. Others spread branches which they had cut from the field.
When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount Olives, Jesus
sent two of his disciples, and said to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and
immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat; untie it and
bring it.
We start the Easter retreat online on Thursday, when two streams of time, the mundane and the
sacred flow powerfully together. It is like the Meeting of the Waters in Amazonia where the
Rio Negro and the Amazon run together side by side in the same channel for several miles before
mingling. But the shift begins today, Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. With Jesus’ entry
into Jerusalem, sitting on a donkey, acclaimed by the crowds, we begin to be swept along in the fast
current of the Easter mysteries. Each of the four gospels agree on the symbolic importance of this
triumphant entry that preceded rejection and defeat.
We can hear the oral tradition of the story in the written version There are details we
don’t understand; we feel excluded. We are overhearing a conversation between people who
share details and a sense of symbolic meaning that seem alien to us. Actually, it’s good we feel
uncomfortable because we are entering a new country. I once landed at Delhi airport and saw a
group of American tourists traumatised by the total shock of the culture and physical
environment. By the time we were outside the terminal I noticed one woman going into dissociation.
As they waited for their tour guide to return and the bus to arrive, she was besieged by intrusive
vendors and crippled beggars’, their hands outstretched, grabbing at her. After a while she broke
down completely, rushed back into the airport and said she was going home. Her moment for
meeting Mother India had not yet come.
Holy Week is our arrival in a tradition. The oddness we feel is itself part of the transformational
process of the Easter Mysteries. We are connecting with a story, a family, a transmission, to which
we may feel strangers, outsiders. But suspend rational scepticism and culture shock for a while. Wait
for the tour guide to return, allow a deeper imagination and intuition to flow alongside ordinary
consciousness and the sense of alienation changes to a sense of discovery, a new dimension of
Entered like this, Holy Week strengthens our sense of belonging. An interesting word. Be plus
longing. Easter painfully, joyfully, exposes our strongest and most self-defining longing. And it
calls us into the experience of being, in a strange yet intimate fullness.
What’s important about Jesus giving logistical instructions about his means of transport? For the
first generation it symbolised the King of biblical tradition entering his own city, arriving home in a
way that only the king was allowed to use. ‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look your king is
coming sitting on a donkey’s colt’ (Jn 12:15).
And many spread their garments on the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had
cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed cried out, ‘Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is
We are more than eavesdroppers. We know more than they did. He was not a nationalist saviour
promising the expulsion of the occupying power. He was showing humanity as a whole that we really
all long for the same thing. We are all fulfilled by the pure experience of being. We all belong. As one
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2021