Marches that take place throughout Australia in solidarity with asylum-seekers are particularly appropriate on Palm Sunday, writes Fr Andy Hamilton SJ on the CAPSA website.
Date palm branches are double edged. The fronds are soft and are waved as a symbol of victory for a visiting king. Towards the junction with the trunk, though, the unfurled fronds are sharp, like swords. They can lacerate and are about deterrence; a symbol of cruelty.
In the story of Jesus’ last days, both ends of the palm are in play. On Palm Sunday Jesus enters Jerusalem in a pantomime of royalty. Rolling on a donkey, with people waving palm fronds, he is accepted as king for a day. But later he experiences the palm spikes. He is captured and beaten, has thorn spikes hammered into his head, and is made a bloody symbol of deterrence.
The festivity of Palm Sunday is the prelude to the cruelty of the Passion. And the Passion, of course, is itself the prelude to the Resurrection in which the spikes of suffering and rejection expand, soften and flutter green and verdant.
It is appropriate that many Christian celebrations of Palm Sunday include meditations in the light of Jesus’ comic entrance to Jerusalem as king both on the nature of kingship and also on those made victims by the power of the state. It is a time for remembering the Christians and other persecuted groups in the Middle East and also the people who seek protection from war and persecution and who are treated brutally to deter others.
Marches that take place through Australia in solidarity with people who have claimed our protection and who now languish in cruel detention or have had their lives indefinitely suspended re-enact the short, comic journey of the first Palm Sunday.
They express the same solidarity with the victims of power that Jesus showed in his life. They try to turn the sharp spikes with which refugees are tormented into the fronds of welcome.
CAPSA, the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum, supports the Palm Sunday gatherings and marches in solidarity with people seeking asylum throughout Australia. It is a privilege on Palm Sunday to go beyond our Catholic communities to share the company of others who are appalled by what is being done in our name.
Don't lose your humanity in refugee debate, US bishops say (Catholic News Agency)