Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion Reflection by Lydia Olsen

Lenten Reflections to support your spiritual journey over these forty days – brought to you 
by Catholic Volunteer Network and the Catholic Apostolate Center.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion Reflection

by Lydia Olsen, former volunteer with JVC Northwest

“Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
(Mark 14:1-15:47)

When I share with others about how I served a year as a Jesuit Volunteer AmeriCorps Member in Seattle, WA; the reactions are almost always the same. I watch the curiosity fade and discomfort quickly take over. You see; I worked in end-of-life care—a topic few people want to discuss. “Oh…” they say, “Wow. That is intense!”

I’ve become accustom to this response and it no longer surprises me. I like to think that I’ve become “comfortable with the uncomfortable”, yet when I encounter this week’s gospel I can feel myself having a strikingly similar reaction—“Oh…Wow. That is intense!”

It seems that intensity is often a byproduct of the fight for justice and the advocacy on behalf of the vulnerable. Too often we take a side or a stand in our words and our actions only to back down when we realize the effort and resistance that will come alongside it. In today’s reading we are reminded of the disciples that have stood with Jesus throughout his journey. They doubt that they will ever find themselves in a place where denying him is possible—but sure as the cock crows, they each turn away when they are confronted with the daunting task of remaining unshaken in discomfort. Though it isn’t written in the reading, I feel confident that they each must have thought, “Wow. This is intense” and then decided on a higher level of comfort for themselves over a courageous following.

If we are to be true disciples and servants of social justice, we must be able to take the heat and opt for the courage. We must be willing to enter into these difficult and often unpopular spaces and remain standing. We must be able to say, “Yes…yes this is intense but it is also necessary.” The movers and shakers in our world overlook their comfort for the betterment of the populations that they have aligned themselves beside. It is simply not enough to stand for justice in fair-weather if we aren’t also willing to stand for justice in the storm.

Focus on: Social Justice
Pushing the boundaries of our comfort will invite us into conversations with others or into service where we might feel the obligation to know exactly what to say should discomfort arise. Often we focus on what we will respond with rather than truly listening to what another is choosing to share. This week, I encourage you to be present when you encounter intense conversations or emotions. It’s okay to not know how to react or what to offer. When you feel the urge to turn away, instead lean in more deeply.

Lord, remind me to shout hosanna when I feel your presence in my life and to shout it even louder in when I feel you are difficult to find. Give me the strength I need to not turn away from the discomfort that often accompanies working for justice and the persistence I need to do the work you ask of me. Help me find the courage to say, “yes” to you, even when I’m not sure what all that will entail. Please remind me that the best way to serve you is to serve your people and to do it with an attitude of gratitude and a heart full of boundless love. Supporting me in knowing that I am not asked to know it all. And Lord, will you please double my energy? Often doing your work feels so intense but, if it is your will, I am ready to enter into these spaces. I am here. Guide me. Amen.

Service Suggestion:
Yes, it is intense but being able to share the weight through a listening ear and a compassionate heart makes it more bearable. If each one of us offers enough support to each other through the intensity, then maybe no one will be left to hold more than he or she is able to carry. Talk to the person you keep walking past on the sidewalk. Ask for help because you feel overwhelmed. Check in with someone who is going through a hard time. Offer to visit the elderly, the sick, or the abandoned. Choose the path of courageous fellowship rather than comfort. Focus on sharing the space rather than pleasing your comfort. Yes, it will be intense, but you were made for this and you are not alone.

About the Author:
Lydia Olsen is from Annapolis, Maryland and is the Director of Volunteers at Christ House, a residential medical facility for men with illness experiencing homelessness in Washington, DC. She served as the Transitions Specialist with Providence Hospice in Seattle, WA with JVC NW and AmeriCorps in 2016-2017. She is always up for another cup of coffee or an extra scoop of ice cream.

Looking for more reflections like this one? We invite you to download our Lenten Reflection Guide in its entirety, available by clicking here. You can find an extensive library of Lenten resources by visiting the Catholic Apostolate Center website – click here.
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