Stepping out from ‘the crowd’ on Palm Sunday

By Rose Brennan

BRIDGEPORT—Going against the grain can be a tall order for many. It’s difficult to speak up when one fears judgment, scorn or condemnation. But it’s what we must do as followers of Christ, says Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

The bishop celebrated Mass for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, officially beginning Holy Week, when the worldwide Church commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, his Last Supper with his followers, his Passion, death and finally his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

One of the most memorable parts of the Palm Sunday liturgy is the reading of Christ’s Passion. The congregation plays the part of the crowds, recalling the role they had in Christ’s death.

In this year’s Passion reading from the Gospel of Mark, Pontius Pilate asks the crowd what they wish for him to do with Jesus, offering the possibility to release him. The crowd responds, “Crucify him.” Pilate challenges them, asking what evil Jesus had done, only for them to again respond, “Crucify him.”

Condemning Jesus as a part of a crowd formed the basis of the bishop’s homily following the Gospel reading. This week was the time to focus on our personal role in that crowd, he said, even though his advice to young people often said the opposite.

“Each time I confirm another class of young people, I admonish them, I remind them, I challenge them not to be part of the crowd, to dare to be different,” Bishop Caggiano said. “And that is true, perhaps except for this week.”

According to the bishop, Holy Week is the time for us to both discover where we stand in the crowd and whether or not we have the courage to stand out from it.

Photos by Amy Mortensen

“There have been times in your life and mine when we have sung ‘Hosanna’ to the Lord, particularly in times of blessings when all goes well,” Bishop Caggiano said. “And there are times when perhaps we whispered, for we did not have courage to say it out loud because of our resentment, anger, disappointment and frustration. Perhaps we would whisper under our breath, ‘What type of Lord is this who allows me or us to undergo so much?’ Perhaps we were whispering to crucify him.”

The bishop warned the congregation of getting caught up in the crowd, doing what it thought was best, becoming a faceless person and letting the crowd do the talking for us. Therefore, he challenged the congregation—and himself—to think about their roles in that crowd during this Holy Week.

“Can we have the courage these ways to honestly look at our place in the crowd, what the crowd has brought us to?” he said. “Do you and I have the courage to step out of that crowd and walk with Jesus on our own so that he may touch us, he may heal us, he may forgive us, and he may give us voice to say for ourselves without being part of any crowd, ‘Hosanna to our risen King?'”

On Palm Sunday, a crowd saluted and cheered for Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. Only days later, that same crowd called for his crucifixion. But on Easter Sunday—the day he rose from the dead—Bishop Caggiano noted that crowd was absent.

“On the day when the Lord won his victory over sin and death, there was no crowd,” he said. “There was simply one woman, a penitent, converted woman who knew the depth of suffering and had the courage to step out of the crowd and to wait to greet her risen King.”