Why I Don’t Like Palm Sunday Mass and You Shouldn’t Either

I’m always a little uncomfortable at Palm Sunday Mass.

No, it’s not because the gospel is so long.

But it is because of the gospel.

You know how there’s all the different parts for the gospel reading on Palm Sunday?

There’s a narrator and the bystanders, the priest is Jesus, and then there’s the part for the congregation.

I hate saying, “Crucify him!” I don’t much like the “Hail, King of the Jews” part either.

I’m never quite sure–should I say it with conviction and really play the part? Or, is that bad. Maybe I should downplay the whole thing and say it sort of…monotone.

In giving me that part, it seems like the Church is implying that somehow I had something to do with this. That makes me uncomfortable.

I mean, I’m innocent in this right? Right???

Palm/Passion Sunday?

The other thing about Palm Sunday is it seems to have a bit of an identity crisis. Is it Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday?

Are we happy about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem? Or, are we sad that he’s put to death?

The mashup of these two themes seems kind of contradictory.

But this one I get.

The long road from Sunday to Friday

On Sunday Jesus enters the city with shouts of joy. Everyone is in the streets proclaiming him king!

“Hosanna!” they yell. That’s the traditional greeting for a Davidic King returning triumphant from battle. In those days, a thousand years before Jesus, the people would line the streets waving palm branches as the warrior king passed by shouting, “Hosanna!” or “Savior!”

The chief priests and scribes knew exactly what the people were saying. They’re proclaiming Jesus the new Davidic King, the Messiah! That’s why they tell Jesus to make the people stop!

But Jesus comes back saying there’s no stopping this. “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out,” he replies.

However, the same people that were shouting his praise on Sunday were shouting his condemnation on Friday. In the span of five days Jesus went from king to criminal.

That’s just crazy, right? You’d never do that would you?

Ah, but don’t you?

You are the man!

How many times do we profess belief on Sunday and then betray that belief throughout the week? We’re unkind, selfish, and resentful. We lie, gossip, judge, and manipulate.

Maybe there’s even bigger sins like the use of contraceptives in your marriage.

We are those people! Who killed Jesus? It was every one of us!

It’s unfortunately fitting that I wave my palm at the beginning of Mass and then shout, “Crucify him,” later when I read the gospel.

It’s my sin that put him on the cross. It’s my betrayal of him in a thousand little ways that made it necessary for him be there.

And, maybe it’s good that I feel uncomfortable about it. Maybe it’s good that I’m reminded of my weakness, my lack of courage in the face of temptation, my fickle nature.

Spirituality takeaway

So I challenge you to say those verses every year and let yourself be uncomfortable.

If you don’t know your weakness, then let this gospel reading be the reminder to you. You are not alright. You’re broken inside, and you need what happened on that day.

And yes, you’re partly to blame. Own it! Because if you don’t, then you also can’t receive the gift that comes from it.

If we all recognized in humility our discomfort in the Palm/Passion Sunday gospels and open ourselves to it, we’d all move light years forward in understanding we’re not innocent, we’re not self-sufficient, and we’re not in control.

We need the guilt in order to claim the prize–new life in the one who truly saves us from ourselves.

Image credit: Christyn


Subscribe and start receiving free updates via email.
I guarantee your email address will never be shared.


  1. While it is controversial for the congregation to take these parts, see http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2012/03/30/against-reading-the-passion-of-the-lord-in-parts/ some missals still publish it this way and parishes continue to do that. The Roman Missal actually makes no allowance for the people in the pews to participate (unless it is a children’s Mass).

    However, I agree with you – there is something about saying those words that convicts us… and I am not sure one really “gets” that by mere listening.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Yeah, I wasn’t sure if you were supposed to do that or not. When I first got here, they did “reader theater” style gospel readings for the scrutinies as well. Then we just kept them for Palm Sunday and Good Friday. I have to admit, it’s much different when you hear it that way. I agree, you can sort of tune it out when it’s just read by one person from the pulpit. I often hear how it makes people uncomfortable but they seem to like it at the same time. I guess it hits people in the right way.

  2. Yeah, I feel the same way. Think I love (and hate) about this week is how real the passion feels. Now that my daughter is getting older (almost 3) she is really struggling to understand the crucifixion, the passion, death, Easter, and the Resurrection. It is amazing how even a 3 year old can have an experience like the one you mention in this post.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      I think this week really does make the Passion feel real. Especially the somberness of the Good Friday service. Last year my 7-year old son said the same thing. He asked why we were saying that and didn’t like doing it. It is amazing how much they pick up so young. I guess it’s good that they have those experiences. Those get solidified in their brains. I guess it’s our job to help them understand those experiences correctly and process them.

  3. We did not have parts to say at Mass this year at the Cathedral. I am not sure if this is how they have always done it, or if it has to do with the new Missal. Either way, I felt less connected to Mass this year.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Interesting comment Angi. It did make you feel less connected huh? As was said before in these comments, I figured it probably wouldn’t have as much impact on the individual in the pew if it was just read. I guess that played out in your experience didn’t it?

  4. A parish here has a high school reader’s theater group ‘perform’ the Good Friday version of the Passion. While the teens most often give strong performances, I struggle with the liberties that are being taken with the liturgy when the Gospel is proclaimed in this fashion.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      I definitely agree with that. The gospel should be read and proclaimed, not performed. I guess my only hope is that it somehow sinks in deeper for those kids doing the performance and makes more of an impact on them because of that.

      • My biggest issue with the scenario Lisa described above is that the priest doesn’t participate in the reading. At a “worship & spirituality” committee meeting (note the absence of the word “liturgy”), the new associate priest objected, “How can the people do what the priest does when the priest is there?!” His input was summarily dismissed by everyone, including the senior priest. “That’s the way we do it around here.”

        • Marc Cardaronella says:

          Oh yeah, that is just wrong! I guess if that’s the way that priest wants to run the show then there isn’t much you can do. Definitely doesn’t sound good though. Especially since the priest is there but not participating.

  5. I have felt this way since I was a teenager, Marc! I even wrote a high school essay on it, and still vividly remember how much my teacher praised it and how he was one who inspired me to try writing as a career.

    I so agree with how uncomfortable it makes me feel. Holy Week in general is just a hard time.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Ha! That’s wild. Well, great minds think alike huh?

      You know, I take the discomfort as a kind of spiritual barometer. If I’m not feeling discomfort during Holy Week, I wonder if maybe my fervor is fading. So, it’s a good sign for you that it’s a hard time. Actually, a cause for joy!

  6. Great reflection. I’m with you. I always feel like after a long penitential season of trying to be honest with myself about my sinfulness, this is one last reminder that even for all my efforts to be better, I’m still a sinful, fickle human. And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing to be reminded of.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Thanks! You know, with all the images of the Passion floating around today (Good Friday), I’m feeling it again. I don’t want to look at these images and yet, I know I should look at them and remind myself what the Passion was, what it was about, and why it had to be. And that keeps me more focused on who I need to be.

      • Horatio Hornblatt says:

        Why you should Love Palm Sunday:

        This is better understood if you:
        Pray the Scriptural Rosary
        Attend and learn from the Stations of the Cross
        Attend and manage pro-life activities in front of abortion facilities
        Attend and manage pro-life sidewalk counseling
        See for yourself the affects of sin, including your own on our Savior
        See for yourself the affects of sin, including your own on your brothers and sisters
        Experience public mockery, and know where it comes from
        Carry the Cross publicly
        Have a genuine Lenten experience and learn how through sin, we have all persecuted Christ
        Immerse ourselves in the fact we have sinned and are redeemed through Christ


  1. […] Via marccardaronella.com Share it!:Share on TumblrEmailPrint Pin ItLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

Speak Your Mind