Can we give Christ an olive branch this Easter?

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The fresh, crisp air is gently blowing through the windows of our 16th-floor hotel room in Milan, Italy on this Palm Sunday. The sun starts to peep over the horizon, and all of Milan awakens to the exuberant sound of church bells ringing in Holy Week.   

We have been in Italy for a week while my husband attends a work conference near here.  I am blessed to have been able to travel with him.

Once I was fully awake, the music of the bells became comforting and welcoming. I awaited each strike of the clapper on the bell sound to perform its function of calling worshippers to services across Milan.

We quickly put on our walking shoes and headed onto the already crowded streets of a city, which is home to over forty churches, duomos, and basilicas. The Santa Maria delle Grazie is where to find Leonardo da Vinci’s magnificent mural of Christ’s Last Supper. Its bell tower is tolling. The bell towers are also pealing joy over the plaza where tourists and citizens alike marvel at the Duomo di Milano, which took six centuries to construct the third largest Cathedral in the world.

The aroma of cappuccino, espresso and pastries waft in the air as if our senses needed a further awakening. I start to notice people walking past me with fists full of olive branches. They are scurrying between tourists taking selfies and marathon runners, who just finished an early race.

As we succumb to the aroma of espresso in a cafe near a church, I see a large table with those same olive branches in vast numbers spread over its surface. Worshippers by the dozens grab handfuls as they enter through the heavy wooden doors of a duomo built in the 14th century.

The tradition of Italians using the olive branches instead of palms is because of its abundance as well as it symbolizes peace.

Everywhere we walk, down cobblestone pathways and bustling streets, we encounter Christians of all ages holding the branches as the bells continue to toll over Milan.

The night falls into a peaceful hum after a noisy day. The bell tower softly delivers its last song at 10 p.m.   

This morning I am back in my kitchen in Georgia and catching up on the news, social media and life. Clothes are whirling in the dryer as the washing machine accepts another load. 

It seems not much has changed since my last column. One million kids and supporters walked the streets of America to protest gun violence. Conservatives are now attacking the teens as wealthy little liberals. Liberals are attacking and blaming conservatives for nearly everything. Yes, not much has changed. 

Adults are hurling insults calling teenagers as well as others, morons, or idiots, or things far worse before they left for church on Palm Sunday. Those same folks wonder why the children say harsh words and seem disrespectful. Their churches are pondering why the pews aren’t quite full. Yes, not much has changed.

Human kindness seems to be slipping further and further away.

Our mouths are mouthier because it seems someone somewhere gave everyone the right to be mean and to spread hatred. 

A man walked through the streets one Sunday long ago welcomed by admirers waving palms. Jesus was a teacher of peace and love; a healer of the wounded and the sick. Five days later he hung from a cross as hatred spewed over his body and blood dripped from his veins.

Believers betrayed him, and because he believed, he suffered crucifixion.

He loved all of us and each of us and asked us to love one another.

His last words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Is he not due for our apology? Can we not for one day, Easter day, refrain from our labeling, our insulting mouthing, our name calling and let him walk among us as we lay an olive branch at his feet?

Can we not toll our bells and pray for his guidance to not just love those we agree with, but respect those whom we don’t? Can we, for one lone day, not condemn? Can we not spew vitriol for one single day?   

If we call ourselves Christian and espouse hatred with our words and deeds, how do we honor his life and teachings?

For one day, let’s quiet our tongues enough to hear the joy of bells pealing for the resurrected Christ. 

I don’t think all the gold in all the cathedrals or the sounds of all the bells in the world would make him happier than for us to say, “Father, forgive us for we know not what we do.”

Lynn Gendusa is a former resident and writer who lives in Roswell.