Purpose In The Suffering :: Why Palm Sunday Is This Catholic’s Favorite Mass

Author’s Note: I’d like to start this post by saying that the feelings shared in this are my own personal beliefs. This post has no reflection on the religious or spiritual beliefs of New Orleans Mom as an organization, but rather myself as the author. I’d also like to note that I recognize and appreciate that we have readers from all walks of life, creeds, and faiths (which I personally love about New Orleans Mom). I respect and value everyone’s own religious beliefs and practices, and hope that my post is simply read as a personal experience. 

Palm Sunday :: An Unlikely Favorite Mass 

In the Christian faith, we just celebrated Palm Sunday. I was born, raised, and am a still-practicing Catholic. And for as long as I can remember Palm Sunday has always been my favorite Mass of the year. I always used to think that was odd, because the Gospel for this Mass is Jesus’ passion. (For those who are not Christian, this is the story of his trial, sentencing, and death on the cross). Understandably the Gospel is somber and sad in many ways. But it’s also beautiful because it highlights the humanity of Jesus. It highlights the fact that he feared just as we fear, he suffered just as we suffer, and most importantly (in my mind), it highlights that God never leaves us, especially in the the hard times. For me, this particular Mass always leaves me in awe. In awe that God could love us so much that he would literally call his only son to lay down his life that we would be saved, and that a young man could have such unwavering faith that he would willingly do so. It makes me feel loved and valued in a way that I can’t really put into words. 

Admittedly, I’ve faltered in my faith some over the years. As a kid, I loved Mass. In my teen years, it became more of a ritual I felt I had to do instead of something I wanted to do. In college, I went to Mass intermittently. Some years I went every weekend, others hardly at all. In those years, I was also admittedly the kind of person who felt every inconvenience meant my luck was horrible, or I had a reason to be mad. Basically, I felt like I was always the victim. In my later adult years, God has worked on me tremendously to help me see things differently. Now inconveniences are just small bumps in the road to be navigated. And the big challenges….I have learned to view those as opportunities for growth. Much like a diamond being refined under immense pressure. 

Pain With A Purpose 

I think that’s why Palm Sunday has remained my favorite Mass to this day. It reminds me that purpose can always be found in the suffering if we are willing to look. (And I should add that suffering is different to everyone, and no suffering necessarily outweighs another. We all struggle in our own way). It reminds me that God often calls us to the suffering to bring us closer to him. This understanding really began to take root in me in 2020 when my husband left for a year long deployment. At that time, one of our parish priests (Fr. Andrew Gutierrez) came to say a special Mass at our house for our family a few weeks before my husband left. When Fr. Andrew was done saying Mass he said “you know, God has a plan and a purpose for all of this. There is a reason he has brought you both to this suffering.” He then shared with me some of his favorite scriptures on suffering, and I have to admit that I read those repeatedly over the course of the next year. So much so that many of them are committed to memory at this point. 

All this to say, I think the basis of why I love Palm Sunday can be helpful for anyone (even non-Christians). In fact, my therapist believes very much in finding purpose in one’s suffering. As she says, she is an existential therapist. So in some ways, I believe that this underlying theme is universal. I guess in many ways it can be simplified into gratitude. Finding gratitude in life’s little inconveniences can often-times leave space for a lot of growth and fortification of one’s own spirit. (There has even been research that has found an increased will to live, and a development of new neural pathways in the brain when we continually overcome challenges and obstacles life throws our way.) And I hope those of you reading are able to do just that. I hope that you can find strength in life’s challenges, and are able to discern the opportunities for growth when life gets overwhelming. 


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