This Sunday we commemorate Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. According to the Gospels, Jesus Christ, astride a donkey, entered Jerusalem, and the celebrating people there laid down their cloaks and small branches of trees in front of him, singing part of Psalm 118: 25–26– Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. According the Gospel, this happened shortly before the Passover. When Jesus entered the City, he came not on a galloping stallion like a conquering hero but astride a donkey which in, the tradition of Near East, symbolizes peace.
Probably among the crowd that day are the characters who played significant roles in Christ’s public ministry, passion, and death. First, we would find the scribes and the Pharisee, who for all their arrogance and pomposity, would occupy the most conspicuous place with the best vantage view of Jesus on the donkey. Huddled together, they would express indignation over the unfolding drama. To them, Jesus’ entry into the Holy City and the spectacle of an adoring crowd laying their cloaks and branches as homage to a king was a serious affront. To them Jesus claiming to be God was blasphemy. I could imagine them gnashing their teeth in chagrin in seeing the “blasphemer” hailed as a king, the promised Messiah.
There were the disciples. The Twelve who accompanied their master in his three-year public ministry, learning from his teachings. Of course, not everyone remained faithful to the very end. Judas would betray his master for 30 pieces of silver. Then there is Peter, the most impetuous among the lot, who denied the Lord three times but realizing his grave error, deeply regretted his action and expressed true repentance.
Governor Pontius Pilate officials must have heard and taken strong interest in the drama unfolding in the city. As governor of Judea, Pilate was the official who presided over the trial of Jesus and later ordered his crucifixion. The Roman conquerors were interested in keeping the peace and always on the look-out for any sign of trouble.
And finally, the nameless and faceless crowd chanting Hosannah! Hosannah! But many among the crowd would soon change their tune and instead be shouting “crucify him! crucify him!”
Who do we see ourselves in the crowd?
Are we the Pharisees who prided themselves as keepers of the Law of Moses, demanding the strictest obedience on the ordinary people butwere reluctant to follow it themselves? The Holy Scripture referred to them as hypocrites. Jesus described them as whitened sepulcher, beautiful outside but full of carcass inside.
Except for Judas Escariot who betrayed Jesus, are we like Peter and the other disciples who, despite the attendant dangers of being associated with Jesus, continued persistently to follow their Master up to the very end? They eventually followed His footsteps to become preachers, spreading the Gospel to the four corners of the world.
Are we the many in the crowd who are fickle, their faith in Christ not being deeply rooted and easily swayed by the passion of the moment or flight of fancy? Their faith crumbles on the face of trials. They would easily cry hosannah to the Lord just as they would easily spit insult at him to shout ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’
On Palm Sunday last year, Pope Francis urged us to lift our eyes to the cross, “in order to receive the grace of amazement”. He recalled how Saint Francis of Assisi contemplated the crucified Lord and his amazement that his friars did not weep. According to Pope Francis: “What about us? Can we still be moved by God’s love? Have we lost the ability to be amazed by him? Why? Maybe our faith has grown dull from habit. Maybe we remain trapped in our regrets and allow ourselves to be crippled by our disappointments. Maybe we have lost all our trust or even feel worthless. But perhaps, behind all these “maybes”, lies the fact that we are not open to the gift of the Spirit who gives us the grace of amazement.”
This Holy Week, let us start over again from amazement. Like Francis, Let us gaze upon Jesus on the cross and say to him: “Lord, how much you love me! How precious I am to you!”
Yes, “Let us be amazed by Jesus so that we can start living again, for the grandeur of life lies not in possessions and promotions, but in realizing that we are loved. This is the grandeur of life: discovering that we are loved. And the grandeur of life lies precisely in the beauty of love. In the crucified Jesus, we see God humiliated, the Almighty dismissed and discarded. And with the grace of amazement we come to realize that in welcoming the dismissed and discarded, in drawing close to those ill-treated by life, we are loving Jesus. For that is where he is: in the least of our brothers and sisters, in the rejected and discarded, in those whom our self-righteous culture condemns.”
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