Palm Sunday: Holy Frustration, On the Memory of a Riot

Today’s Readings
Reflexión en Español

As I was scrolling through Instagram, I came across an image of a t-shirt that read “The first Palm Sunday was a riot.” It is fitting, then, that we come to the culmination of our Lenten journey in holy frustration beginning with a riot. As Martin Luther King, Jr., stated, “a riot is the language of the unheard.”

Today’s scene of Jesus entering into Jerusalem days before his crucifixion comes from Luke’s gospel. Contemporary biblical scholars agree that Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on the back of a donkey is a political act—a threat to imperial rule and clericalism. His entrance upon an animal mimics that of parades that welcome military leaders home. And the people respond as such. They wave their palms as signs of victory. They lay their cloaks as a sign of respect. And this is what signals us to the riotous nature of the procession. The only other time cloaks are laid before a procession in the Bible was when the military leaders staged a coup to claim Jehu the rightful King of Israel. The people are expecting Jesus to be this kind of ruler, to drive out the Romans. 

Holy Frustration, On the Memory of a Riot

Yet riding on a donkey, Jesus is posturing himself as a person who rather comes humbly into the city with peace. His aim is not a military coup but a conversion toward peace. The people have been forced down by the violence of oppression for far too long, and have been wrongly led to believe that the only retaliation is a violent one. Jesus is the embodiment of a limitless imagination and radical hope. 

Two weeks ago, the Biden administration announced that it would end the two year long blanket ban on asylum known as Title 42. On what was their two year anniversary of the policy, Revolucionari@s Kino, an organizing group made up of asylum seekers working the the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Sonora held a march calling for its end. If a riot is the language of the unheard, these women organizers were demanding to be heard. 

In February, I had the privilege of accompanying a group of students to the Kino Border Initiative. There we met one of Las Revolucionarias, Maria del Rosario. She shared the dreams she had for her children. She wanted them to learn how to read and have access to education. She wanted them to have decent healthcare. Most of all, she wanted her kids to have the freedom to be kids. She wanted them to be able to play in the streets past 4PM without the threat of violence. She wanted them to have the freedom to choose who they want to be when they grow up, not between death or working for the cartels. Maria and her family made the perilous journey through the desert and to the Arizona/Mexico border because she knew that violence was not the only option.

So we ride into Holy Week with our holy frustration on the memory of a riot. We wave our fronds and fold our palms into crosses and are reminded that those silenced demand to be heard and that our destination is peace.

7 replies
  1. Dr Eileen Quinn Knight
    Dr Eileen Quinn Knight says:

    “That those silenced among us will be heard”. We ask almighty God, Our Father, to listen to all those praying for the pain of oppression to pass, to live in the light of Christ with the blessing of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We know that those silenced have issues to present to the world in which we live. That listening to others brings us a different Church, filled with the need of others and cherishing the movement forward to release all from the bonds of oppression. To imagine what people of this kind of oppression go through brings about a rain of tears and a plea for peace and joy in their lives. May all of us seek peace for them and a solution to the oppression.

  2. James E. Flynn
    James E. Flynn says:

    So accurately expressed: “riot of the unheard” – or “voices of those who have no voice” – such is Palm Sunday’s message that is so often unheard/unheeded.

  3. sonja
    sonja says:

    I pray our government may have the courage to listen to our people, instead of punishing those it does not want to listen to.

  4. Jill Hanson
    Jill Hanson says:

    this is beautiful. When will those voices be heard? It seems so patent to me, the wisdom of reform, yet it seems, all those with power to make the change are either afraid to do so, or among the fear mongers and hates.

  5. Andrea Garritano
    Andrea Garritano says:

    I so love the Holy Frustration writings!!! I hate for them to end. 1-Any chance they can be put in book form and2- will there be any future writings?
    Andrea G.

  6. Mary Rose LeBaron
    Mary Rose LeBaron says:

    What a wonderful story Teresa. I feel solitude sometimes in my frustration about injustice. I find this and all the Holy Frustration letters tremendously comforting this Lent. Signing up for these letters was one of the best decisions I’ve made in 2022. So good to see your words and thoughts and thank you for your contribution Teresa.

    Mary Rose

  7. Dr.Cajetan Coelho
    Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

    Thanks Teresa Marie. A dose of Ephphatha strategy is useful against ‘unlawful’ and ‘unholy’ riots.


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