Palm Sunday
MT 26:14—27:66 OR 27:11-54
April 5, 2020

The liturgy for “Palm Sunday of The Lord’s Passion” begins with the proclamation of a processional Gospel. All four of the Gospels, with varying degrees of detail, report the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. This year, we hear from Matthew.

Sharing the excitement of the crowd gathered to welcome Jesus is a very dramatic and joyful way to begin our prayer, as well as Holy Week. It is ironic to think, however, that if Jesus were to attempt to enter the holy city of Jerusalem today, any crowd gathering to greet Him would quickly be dispersed by authorities. Like most of the countries in the world, Israel is responding to the pandemic with a policy of “social distancing.” And, as in most countries, many Israelis are resistant to, or totally ignoring these lifesaving measures.

Prof. Ido Erev, a behavioral economics expert, has weighed in on his country’s reaction to the call for social distancing. His research reveals two predictable reactions by the general public to the kind of restrictions on freedom of movement brought about by emergencies like the current pandemic. The majority of people, initially alarmed by the risk, immediately comply with all directives. Fortunately, it is only a small minority that adopt the attitude “it won’t happen to me.” The obstinance of this smaller group endangers the entire population. But, the majority is not free of blame. Studies prove that after a period of “sheltering in place,” even the conscientiously compliant begin to drop their guard and resume their normal lifestyle as best they can under the circumstances.

Arguably, a whole lot of research wasn’t needed to come up with these findings. Anyone who reads the Old Testament could easily come to the same insights about human behavior…which has not changed over the centuries.

The virus of “sin” attacked the first parents, robbing them of the perfect freedom that God intended for us. There is no way to self-protect from this spiritual virus traced to the original sin. It is an inherited condition that has infected every person born into this world, with a single exception…The Blessed Mother. In a way, the entire Old Testament is the story of how our ancestors dealt with a pervasive and highly contagious spiritual pandemic.

God continually offered guidance on how to survive. The majority of people would comply, but there have always been those so afflicted with this lethal disease, that they felt that God’s law does not apply to them. Their “stiff neck attitude,” obstinance, endangered their own spiritual well-being. Furthermore, their attitude was contagious, putting others at risk as well. Many of those, who, at first, would hear and comply with God’s will, over time, would fall back into their old sinful ways.

Rather than taking a heavy-handed approach like a number of authoritarian world leaders are doing today, Prof. Erev suggests a more effective way to influence human behavior. His research has led to the conclusion that the most effective way to modify attitudes rooted in obstinance…or forgetfulness…is through “friendly reminders.” In other words, continually reminding people to protect themselves with caring comments is the most effective way to combat Covid-19.

Arguably, a whole lot of research wasn’t needed to come to this conclusion. Anyone who reads the New Testament can easily see how God saw no choice but to intervene in human history in order to teach us to self-protect from sin.

The Father sent The Son into this world to offer the most loving “reminder” possible. Through Jesus, we are cautioned to distance ourselves from anything that threatens our freedom to live as children of God.

The Lord was not a heavy-handed dictator, using power to control and punish. Rather, by His word and example, Jesus inspires us to combat sin with love. We can flatten the curve and reduce the symptoms of the spiritual pandemic, by loving God…

With all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind
…and by
loving our neighbor as ourselves.

So simple and so entirely effective.

Yet, there are those (the stiff necked) who feel that the Law of Love does not apply to them. They consider themselves above it. Others comply…for a while…and then wander back into old, unhealthy habits. And so, we continue to pass on the virus.

That is why the “The Hosannahs” of Palm Sunday changed quickly into “CRUCIFY HIM!” on Good Friday.

So, by way of “friendly reminder,” protect your physical health by sheltering in place, practicing social distancing when you must go out, washing your hands, and taking whatever other precautions the medical experts recommend. Regarding your spiritual well-being…PUT ON CHRIST! There is no better personal protection against sin and death.