by Jill Ragar Esfeld
Palm fronds, in case you didn’t know, can take up to 50 years to decompose.
That’s a problem in places like Arizona, where palm trees grow prolifically and landfills are overwhelmed by them.
But it’s not a problem in my garden, where I love to think of the sacramental palms from past Lents blessing the trees and flowers in my yard long after I’m gone.
The church teaches that blessed items must be treated with respect and, when discarded, should be buried, or burned with the ashes then buried.
Sacredness is honored when what has been dedicated to God is returned to him in this way.
After 30 Lenten seasons, my garden is a very sacred place, filled with fond memories of blessed palms from my home parish fashioned into little treasures by my family.
Every year it is a tradition to weave the fronds brought home from Palm Sunday Mass into crosses, bookmarks, roses, fish, and bracelets.
And every year, before Palm Sunday, it is a spring ritual to bury the palms from the past Lent.
This is a happy pause before we enter into the week commemorating Christ’s Passion.
It whispers the return of life to a desolate earth and hope in the resurrection of Easter morning.
All four Gospels describe Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, and all record that people threw palms on the path in front of him shouting “Hosanna!” (Save us).
It was a custom reserved for the homecoming of kings and war heroes; and perhaps those shouting hoped Jesus was coming to free them from Roman oppression.
But days later, this same triumphant crowd would turn on Jesus and call for his crucifixion.
How often do I behave in this same way — calling on God to help me, praising him in hope of an outcome that is my will and not His, then turning away in disappointment when things don’t go my way?
The palms buried in my garden are a constant reminder of how fragile my faith can be.
And the flowers that grow above them are a reminder to me that Easter is always at hand — every day and every moment.
Around the bend of every disappointment, God is waiting to forgive me for my weakness and give me hope in the joy of a new beginning.