We approach the end of our Lenten journey that we began weeks ago. The Palm, or Passion, Sunday orients our eyes to two things: the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and his passion.
Blessing with the relics of Christ’s cross at the end of the procession, By Fouad Twal, patriarch of Jerusalem (2009)
Procession with palms
Bible reading Matthew 21: 1–11
The first part of the celebration, with palms in our hands, we acclaim Jesus as the Christ who comes as King.
But what kind of king is he?
Just look at the way he comes. Is he mounting a horse? No, not at all! The horse is an animal for the powerful, for war lords, it’s an animal of prestige. Jesus does not fit in such description.
He is king but not for wielding his power. He does not crush the little ones but he rather helps them up. He’s a humble king whose power is for service. He’s a king of peace; he comes mounting a donkey an animal for ordinary people. Indeed, Jesus identifies himself with humanity even in poverty.
I have the temptation to invite you to pray for kings, for presidents, for bishops and all those who hold positions of authority so that they may use their power for service. But I realise that we shouldn’t look far. Let each person look at oneself.
In one way or another, we are all persons of power. Pray that we may use that power to strengthen our communion among us and that we may be at the service of others.
Joy in passion?
But can we really rejoice in this triumphal entry of Jesus when we know what follows after? The one whom the people welcome in acclamation as king will soon be insulted, mocked, crucified as a criminal and succumb to violent death. Besides, do we forget our own passion that we endure everyday?
No, we don’t burry our heads into the sand; we are conscious of the suffering of Christ that will follow soon and we are equally aware of the misery in the world. Yet we live in this confidence that it’s not death, not war, not the injustice that will pronounce the last word.
Faith in victory of love
That’s why our procession of joy at the beginning of this week of passion can’t be simple euphoria of unrealistic persons who chose to close their eyes on the reality around them. It’s rather an expression of our faith and trust in the faithful love of God. Yes, by waving the palms in my hand I affirm: I believe in love, I believe in life.
The passion of the Lord
After listening to the passion of the Lord, do we really have words to add? In fact, it’s not necessary at all. In the passion of Jesus is revealed the enduring love of God –love to the extreme.
Golgotha in the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
Bible readings Isaiah 50: 4–7 Psalms 22: 8–9; 17–20; 23–24 Philippians 2 6–11 Matthew 26: 14—27: 66
Face of God in the passion
In the passion of Jesus we appreciate better the tenderness of the merciful Father whose eyes are fixed to the road as he awaits the return of his rebellious son. In the passion, we understand the depth of that apparently unwise and uneconomical action of the shepherd who leaves 99 sheep at risk and bothers to go and retrieve the lone lost sheep. Indeed, in the passion of Jesus the depth of God’s love for us is laid bare.
No wonder Jesus is teaching no more. He invites us to look at the cross. The image that comes to mind is that of candle that consumes itself in order to give out light –image of Jesus on the cross.
What’s my response?
Do I stand there piously, with a mournful face? Perhaps, it’s not necessary. I don’t think so Jesus is expecting our compassion. We risk making a funeral out of this act of love and miss the point completely.
Look at the cross again, see those arms of Jesus widely outstretched. Jesus embraces you and me; he embraces all humanity. In his arms we discover ourselves as brothers and sisters despite whatever marginal differences there may be between us. We are one humanity, one family of God.
Perhaps, what he awaits from us is to welcome his love so that we too, in turn, we may be animated by the same selfless love that knows no boundaries.
Love, give me to love others as you love.
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