Palm Sunday, Year A
Matthew 26:14- 27:66
In the Upper Room
Every Sunday during the Eucharistic Prayer, I imagine myself at the Last Supper. I am in the Upper Room, the stone walls lit by candles, surrounded by friends. I feel the Passover excitement in the air. Not only is it a huge feast, but Jesus, the famous itinerant rabbi, is the celebrant. I watch Jesus break the bread. I look at apostles (I can see them but they can’t see me) and marvel that they are the first to hear words that will be uttered for centuries to come: “Take and eat, this is my body” (v. 26).
But during Mass each Sunday, I do not think about that it is the last supper. How many times have we recalled an event and thought if only I had known it was the last time. Even two thousand years later when I know the scene I witness is the last one, I still do not layer that realization onto the events that unfold.
So, the continuation of the gospel account on Palm Sunday shakes me a bit. It was the last supper, even if the apostles didn’t realize it, and even then at the end, the apostles continued to deny their humanity, continued to think that because they were in the twelve, they were somehow above the rest, that they wouldn’t mess up. When Jesus, the One who has healed and forgiven and performed miracles, tells them one is going to betray Him, no one gets nervous that he might be the one. Each apostle is sure he is in the right and another is the bad guy. When Jesus, the guy who has made no mistakes in His thirty-three years, tells Peter he will deny Him three times, Peter is certain Jesus is wrong. Even after all that time with Jesus, the disciples still don’t grasp their utter humanness. Even at the end.
So, how can we expect more from ourselves?
Jesus says, “This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken,” (v.34), he speaks to all of us into eternity. Events in our lives will shake our faith. It’s the nature of being human. We are all just like the apostles I see every Sunday in the Upper Room. We think we know best—our faith will never be shaken or, like Judas, money is king. But no matter what we believe in, we will deny it at some point.
If, like Judas, our faith is rooted in things that aren’t eternal, the denial will drive us to a despair from which we can’t escape. If our faith is rooted in the eternal like Peter, denial will also drive us to despair: “Peter remembered the words that Jesus had spoken…He began to weep bitterly” (v. 75). But through that despair, we recognize our humanity, realize that we, even though we are chosen, aren’t above anyone. We make mistakes, even when, like Peter, we don’t want to. We weep bitterly and then we gather ourselves together, reflect, and move forward. We grow.
That is faith. Growth. Seeds planted that sprout expectedly. Understanding there is no end, no hierarchy. Knowing the words uttered in the Upper Room: “This is my body, broken for you,” are meant for all of us.