“The Sorrow in My Heart is Deeper than Ever.”
Today’s post is from guest contributor Sr. Donna McGartland. Donna is one of the authors in Love Tenderly: Sacred Stories of Lesbian and Queer Religious published by New Ways Ministry.
Today’s liturgical readings for Palm Sunday can be found here.
The movement of the Palm Sunday liturgy fascinates me. We start off with a triumphal feeling as we remember Jesus entering into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. The mood quickly becomes somber as we recall the other events Jesus experienced later that week. Let’s take a look at how this movement might apply to the experience of LGBTQIA+ people.
I used to live in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans (and many other Hispanic people) enter into the full experience of this week. On Palm Sunday, we would gather a few blocks away from the church, carrying palm branches from the trees on our own properties. There was no scarcity of palms and many brought what seemed like an entire palm tree! Many people came dressed as the cast of characters – Peter, a centurion, male and female disciples, Pilate, Jesus and many others.
We would walk towards the church waving our palms and singing, “Hosanna to the King! Hosanna to the Son of David!” The feeling of joy and excitement was evident. Children enjoyed watching the donkey carrying Jesus. The donkey seemed to walk proud and strong as if it knew the importance of its role.
When we arrived at the church, the entire atmosphere changed. We entered the darkness; palm branches disappeared; all was somber.
The first reading from Isaiah was read: “… I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. …”
When it was done, the man who played Jesus approached the ambo and sang, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
The Gospel was dramatically re-enacted. Jesus and his disciples sat around a table. I couldn’t help but feel Jesus’ pain as he talked about his impending death. The apostles were visibly confused at what Jesus was saying and doing. Taking the bread, he said, “Take this all of you and eat. This is my body.” Then taking the cup he said, “Take and drink for this is my blood of the New Covenant to be shed for you and all.”
The scene quickly switched to the garden where the soldiers arrested Jesus, and the sad mood became sadder as the story of his trial, humiliation, pain, and suffering continued through to the Crucifixion.
How vividly I recall those liturgies even today, more than a decade later. My focus then had always been on what Jesus suffered and felt during this whole ordeal.
Today, as I write this reflection, the sorrow in my heart is deeper than ever. I see and hear in the person of Jesus those in the LGBTQIA+ community and especially those transgender and nonbinary persons who have experienced this same betrayal. Bishops, who at every Mass say with Jesus, “This is my Body; this is my Blood of the Covenant to be shed for you,” recently dismissed the experienced of trans and nonbinary persons. I read their document and felt a sword pierce not only my heart but the hearts of many. Countless people walk the road to Calvary every day.
I invite you to fully enter Jesus’ experiences of celebration and betrayal. When have you felt lifted up? When have you felt rejected or abandoned? When have you felt alone on your journey and when have you metaphorically shed your Blood of the Covenant for others?
Identify the persons who support you. Who are your Mary Magdalens, Simons of Cyrene, Josephs of Aramathea, and others who walk with you?
Who are the ones who betray you—the Peters and Judases, Pilates and High Priests who fail to understand your Truth? Can you, despite their ignorance and actions, continue to offer them your “Blood of the Covenant” in forgiveness? Can you pray as Jesus did on the Cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do?”
As we enter the sacredness of this week, may we humbly walk in the footsteps of Jesus, knowing we are not alone on this journey.
—Sr. Donna McGartland, April 2, 2023
Thank you for that deep reflection, Sr. Donna, and the invitation to accompany Jesus on the road to Calvary and not allow fear to keep us from the love, victory and new life which awaits.
Beautifully said. Thank you for your dedication