Fr. James Martin, S.J.; This Holy Week, remember that Jesus understands you

Detail of, "The Bishop of Assisi Giving a Palm to Saint Clare" ca. 1360 (Met Museum). 

Subscribe to “The Examen” for free on Apple Podcasts
Subscribe to “The Examen” for free on Google Play
Join our Patreon Community


I’m sure most of us have images of Palm Sunday from movies that we’ve seen. We imagine Jesus riding on a donkey as the people of Jerusalem wave palm branches and cheer, “Hosanna in the highest!” And, as the Gospels describe it, the events of the first Palm Sunday probably weren't too different from that.

A few weeks ago I was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and in Jerusalem you can trace the route that Jesus took, from the Mount of Olives, down into the Kidron Valley and then up to Jerusalem, through a city gate that they can still identify. 

But, for me, Palm Sunday is less about the scenes than about the spiritual message. That is, less about exteriors than about the interiors. Specifically, about how life can change so suddenly. One day Jesus is entering the holy city to the crowd’s cheers, a few days later he is being condemned by the crowds and nailed to a cross.

It’s a sobering reminder of quickly our lives can change. It can be shocking when, all of a sudden, you have a change in fortune. You lose your job, get diagnosed with an illness, or suffer a death in your family. But Jesus understands what you’re going through, because he has gone through this himself. He understands you not only because he’s divine and knows all things but because he is human and experienced all things.

During Holy Week, then, perhaps you could reflect on this essential truth: Jesus understands you.

[Don’t miss any of the latest writings, podcasts and videos from Father Martin. Sign up for his newsletter.]

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Dave Bollinger
5 months ago

Thank you, Fr. Martin. A very timely message as there is much suffering in the Catholic Church.

More: Prayer

The latest from america

Pope Francis embraces Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, superior general of the Society of Jesus, during a meeting with editors and staff of the Jesuit-run magazine, La Civilta Cattolica, at the Vatican Feb. 9, 2017. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout)
His critics know Pope Francis "will not change,” said Father Sosa, adding, “In reality, these [attacks] are a way to influence the election of the next pope.”
Gerard O’ConnellSeptember 16, 2019
We spend billions each year on avoiding pain through pharmaceuticals or self-medicating through alcohol and drugs. But we must not forget that pain and suffering are not the enemy.
John WesterSeptember 16, 2019
Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia pray during Mass at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville, Tenn., on July 24, 2016. Members of religious orders who come from abroad and take a vow of poverty may find it more difficult to remain in the United States. (CNS photo/Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register)
New immigration rules may have serious ramifications for those coming to the U.S. to work as teachers, chaplains or health care workers, writes Sister Sally Duffy of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.
Sally Duffy, S.C.September 16, 2019
An altar is adorned with white balloons at a "Mass for the Peace" Aug. 10, 2019, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, one week after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in nearby El Paso, Texas. (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters)
“We need to help our society to see our common humanity—that we are all children of God, meant to live together as brothers and sisters.”
Jim McDermottSeptember 16, 2019