Passion Sunday


Like modern drugstores, ancient pharmacies offered prophylactic medicines for protection against diseases. For the Egyptians, green palm branches were prophylactic shields placed on top of mummies to protect the deceased in the next world and to ensure eternal life.

Miners used to carry small pieces of blessed palms in the shape of a cross as protection when they entered the dangerous bowels of the earth. Palm branches woven into crosses were placed in homes to ward off disease, pestilence, lightning, and demons. Farmers would place palm crosses in their fields to repel blights and ensure fertility. These and similar pious practices attribute almost magical powers to blessed palm branches which have long been considered signs of strength in adversity. Old legends hold that if a heavy weight is placed on top of a palm tree, it will stand tall. This explains why Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, was believed to have rewarded palm branches to the victors for remaining strong in great conflict.

As Jesus is greeted with palm branches today while riding up into the Holy City, these famous lines from the poetry of Robert Frost could well be applied to him:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- The Road Not Taken

The choice of the road that Jesus would travel was confirmed in the olive garden of Gethsemane. In fact, it was three years earlier, at his baptism, when he first chose that road. His “less traveled road” was the Way traveled by those marked with the Tau, the cross of those already living in the New Reign of the Age of God. Faithful to that cross, Jesus lived centuries, if not millennia, ahead of his time, and so his life set him apart from others. Because Jesus was a living lesson, people called him “rabbi” (teacher) and to all who found his lesson intriguing, he said, “Come, follow me” (Luke 18:22) and invited them to become students of the Way.

That same invitation still thunders in the ears of all Jesus’ disciples today. Indeed, it produces tremors of apprehension, if not outright fright, that the road less traveled will end on bloody Calvary! While tempted to bolt, however, do not detour onto that crowded “more traveled” road. Instead, remain faithful to Jesus as a good student during these days of Holy Week. By so doing, you will learn the art of healing your suffering, pains, fears of shame, and the greatest of all fears – the fear of the incurable Eden’s epidemic: death!

In Gethsemane, Jesus reaffirmed the road that he would travel even though it would ultimately lead to his death. Today, boldly reaffirm your own baptismal decision to walk the road less traveled by tracing the Tau cross upon your forehead.

NCR-Podcast-logo_web.jpgListen to the latest episode of the NCR podcast.

-- from The Lenten Pharmacy by Fr. Ed Hays

O Christ, as that giant stone rolled across your tomb to seal it shut,
you were swallowed up in a darkness that could not overcome
the bright star of your faith in God's promise.
Regardless of how dark our tomb nights are,
may that same brilliant star shine for each of us.

Each one of us will follow you into that dark abyss of death.
So grant us, O Lord, the grace not to be afraid
but to trust as you did.
Death's darkness frightens us, yet your loving surrender strengthens us.

Each burial evokes our conviction that God does not break promises.
So filled with hope, we remain kneeling at this somber tomb.

This week's mantra:
We praise you, O Christ,
and we follow you.

– prayer and mantra from The Pilgrimage Way of the Cross by Fr. Ed Hays


SIGN UP NOW to receive an e-email alert each week of Lent directing you to Fr. Hays' reflection. Enrich your Lenten journey this year.

Want to know more about Fr. Ed Hays?

--Read a profile on Fr. Hays

Visit Ave Maria Press for a full selection of books by Fr. Hays.

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg


NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.



NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

June 16-29, 2017