This is the time of the year we are called to remember and relive the events, which brought about our redemption and salvation. What we commemorate and relive during this week is not just Jesus’ dying and rising, but our own dying and rising in him, which will result in our healing, reconciliation, and redemption. Proper participation in the Holy Week liturgy will deepen our relationship with God, increase our faith and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus. Today’s liturgy combines two contrasting moments of glory and suffering -the welcome of Jesus in Jerusalem and the drama of his trial culminating in his crucifixion.
Bishop Fulton Sheen speaks of the worst paradox that was ever written in history. On the one hand the sovereignty of the Lord and on the other His need. This is the combination of Divinity and dependence, of possession and poverty was the consequence of the Word becoming Flesh.
He was rich became poor for our sake, that we might become rich. He borrowed a boat from a fisherman from which to preach; He borrowed barley loaves and fishes from a boy to feed the multitude; He borrowed a grave from which He would rise; and now He borrowed an ass on which to enter Jerusalem.
In the second part of today’s Gospel, we listen to the Passion of Christ according to Mark. We are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the Passion story – like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Herod who ridiculed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience as he condemned Jesus to death on the cross, and the leaders of the people who preserved their position by getting rid of Jesus.
The Pharisees: They were religious men, who devoted all their energy to doing good and study of God’s Law. They were absolutely convinced of their own rightness, and history shows that such men are capable of the most appalling evil.
Caiphas: He was preoccupied with religious orthodoxy and how easily people led astray by false Messiahs. History of the church proves blunders in the name of the Gospel.
Pilate: He knew that Christ was innocent, but gave in to the demands of the people rather than justice be done. He was more worried about the security of his job.
Judas: A man of no character, who could never be trusted. He preferred money, and was ready to betray his master. The same betrayal continues even today in the lives of many people.
Peter: A weak and cowardly man. Jesus forgave him because he repented. When we refuse to stand for the truth and refuse to speak up, we too fall into the same boat.
The soldiers: They simply carried out the orders without thinking. We too often take up this position without taking up responsibility.
The crowd: They were influenced and carried away without knowing what was happening. We too often carried away by the crowd when we do not stand up for the truth.
Will Jesus need to cleanse my heart with His whip? Jesus cannot tolerate the desecration of the temple of the Holy Spirit in me by my addiction to uncharitable, unjust and impure thoughts words and deeds; neither does He approve of my calculation of loss and gain in my relationship with God.
Do I welcome Jesus into my heart? Am I ready to surrender my life to Him during this Holy Week and welcome Him into all areas of my life as my Lord and Savior, singing “Hosanna”? Today, we receive palm branches at the Divine Liturgy. Let us take them to our homes and put them some place where we can always see them. Let the palms remind us that Christ is the King of our families that Christ is the King of our hearts and that Christ is the only true answer to our quest for happiness and meaning in our lives. And if we do proclaim Christ as our King, let us try to make time for Him in our daily life; let us be reminded that He is the One with whom we will be spending eternity. Let us be reminded further that our careers, our education, our finances, our homes, all of the basic material needs in our lives are only temporary. Let us prioritize and place Christ the King as the primary concern in our lives. It is only when we have done this that we will find true peace and happiness in our confused and complex world.
Are we ready to become like the humble donkey that carried Jesus? As we “carry Jesus” to the world, we can expect to receive the same welcome that Jesus received on Palm Sunday, but we must also expect to meet the same opposition, crosses and trials later. Like the donkey, we are called upon to carry Christ to a world that does not know Him. Let us always remember that a Christian without Christ is a contradiction in terms. Such a one betrays the Christian message. Hence, let us become transparent Christians during this Holy Week, enabling others to see in us Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness and sacrificial service.