I’m sitting here this Monday morning, eating my breakfast at my little table by the window, overlooking the empty street below.
I never used to do this. I’ve been an eat-at-my-desk-while-I-work girl my entire life. But since the quarantine, I’m allowing myself the time to appreciate those breaks. And I’ve found that I’ve been drawn to sit by the window, and look out. Probably because it’s my link to the outside world, as we’re sheltering in place here in Manhattan. But nonetheless, I’ve found a sense of comfort there.
And this morning, I’ve noticed two things: first — the birds. For the first time – literally ever – in the nine years I’ve lived in NYC, I’ve heard birds chirping outside. The deafening silence of the deserted streets has allowed me to hear the birds singing. And loudly! They woke me up this morning!
But I’ve also noticed the constant stream of emergency vehicles below. No taxis. No cars. Just ambulance after ambulance after ambulance.
It’s the beginning of Holy Week. Yesterday – Palm Sunday – marked the start of our final preparation for Easter. And I’ve gotta say, it was surreal, watching the Mass on a little 12″ laptop from the confines of my 500 square foot studio apartment, that has become more of a cell than a home.
Growing up, Palm Sunday was one of the “stick out” Masses that I’d always remember and look forward to. Why? Because we got Palms to play with during Mass.
Yep – I remember walking into the sanctuary, and there’d be this huge mound of palms for each person to take one. I’d always get so excited – and my brothers and I would meticulously fold them into a cross, which I’d then proudly display in my room. A tradition that I still do to this day.
And to be honest, I still get that same rush of excitement every time I see the mound of palm branches at the door.
So you can imagine my disappointment this year, when instead of folding a palm branch in the pew, I was watching a computer screen while staring at a pile of laundry begging to be folded.
Later that afternoon, as I was deep cleaning my apartment, I came across my Palm cross that I had made the year before. It had fallen behind my dresser, and in my vacuuming frenzy, I exhumed it, dusty and dry.
I smiled – what are the odds? And it made me think…Why do we have that huge pile of palms every Palm Sunday. What is the significance, really?
Well, for a two-sentence history lesson: A few days before Jesus was arrested, He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and in reverence and adoration, the people flooded the streets and placed palm branches and cloaks on the ground in front of Him. They were preparing the way for their Lord — praising Him and laying down what they had to create a “paved” pathway for His journey — ultimately to His Passion and death.
And reflecting on this, I was quite saddened that around the world, Christians are celebrating this crucially important Sunday in isolation, and without palms.
They were our participation. A physical symbol that we could join with the crowd and help to prepare Jesus’ way, and offer what we have to Him, as He began the horrific journey to Calvary, out of love for us.
And that’s when it hit me.
This year — this Palm Sunday — as we’re all trapped in our houses without palms…this year, we are the palms.
You. Me. We are each our own palm branch to lay before the Lord.
I have nothing to offer but myself.
My life. My body. My spirit.
This Palm Sunday, I can lay myself down in front of Jesus as He makes His way towards the cross to lay His life down for me.
This quarantine has given us, really for the first time, the incredible gift of time. A luxury that most of us are never afforded in our crazy days. I don’t know about you, but even in the one hour I give to God on Sundays, my mind is still preoccupied with other things…tasks, worries, crushes, the latest Bachelor episode.
Right now, we have the unprecedented gift of time — to sit by windows, listen to birds, FaceTime our friends. And spend time with the Lord.
We can work with Him to self-reflect and identify the areas of our life that need improvement: Am I loving people the way God would love them? How can I be more charitable? Am I patient with others and myself? Have I sought forgiveness where I need to? Have I forgiven someone that I should? Do I honor my parents? Do I respect the body God gave me?
How can God use my life?
We finally have time to think and pray about these incredibly important things.
It’s pretty evident to me that God is at work right now.
I mean, everything has been stripped away as we’re in lockdown. We’re forbidden to leave our homes, and now – even attending Church itself is prohibited. Not to mention, we’re in a forced fast from the Eucharist, and that absence is felt now, more acutely than ever.
But it’s as though all of the noise in our life has been muted, and for the first time, we can hear the metaphorical birds.
“Can you hear Me now?”
Maybe God is using this time of forced quiet, to allow His call to us to become loud and clear.
Maybe we’re finally still enough to hear. And maybe our weary hearts are finally in a place where we will choose to listen.
All I have to offer is myself. All I have to lay down at the feet of Jesus is my broken, mess of a life. It’s not perfect. I’ve been in the same sweatpants for three days in a row now, but it’s what I’ve got.
I can give Him me to transform. I can give Him me to use.
Jesus is calling us to Himself, right now in this moment. They say that God will move mountains to get to our hearts. Well…we’re witnessing Him do just that: He’s brought the world to a standstill, He’s silenced our distractions (no school, no NBA, no March Madness, no movies, no TV production, no vacationing, no parties), and He’s standing in front of us with outstretched arms, inviting us into His warm, life changing embrace. An embrace to comfort us as we’re scared for our health, our jobs, our loved ones, our doctors, our economy, our futures.
He’s calling us back to Him.
I have nothing to offer but myself. And it turns out, that’s all He’s ever wanted.
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God bless, yall are in my prayers.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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