Tomorrow commences the start of Holy Week, a week in which we are called to meditate on the last days of the life of Jesus before his arrest, death, and resurrection; it’s an opportunity for us to reflect on our promised redemption. Next week in preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection we will read/listen and reflect on Christ’s passion and death as recorded by the four gospel writers. But tonight we listen to Matthew’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the day preceding his time of passion and resurrection.
As I read Matthews’s gospel for this Palm Sunday, I thought of the musical Les Miserable. As the student citizens march to the barricades filled with determination and fervor, and as others join them, they sing a song that bespeaks their revolution for change. However, as the soldiers approach the barricade and the fighting becomes deadly, many of the so-called supporters of the revolution desert the standoff.
As we listen to Matthew’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem we are among the crowd who is seeking change; some of whom have followed Jesus from Jericho. Other travelers join the procession increasing its size as Jesus and the disciples approach Jerusalem. There is the potential to have a grand Passover celebration and a one-upmanship to the Romans. But that is not all. Jesus tells two of the disciples to go into town and to procure a donkey and a colt. Following His instruction, the disciples bring the animals and draped their cloaks on them. Jesus mounts the donkey with the colt alongside. The crowd sensing that their messiah king is in their midst, spread their precious cloaks on the ground for their hoped-for savior king. They cut branches from the trees and spread them before the Lord, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” But where are we in the crowd?
But what does all this mean—then and now? The people think Jesus is the Messiah king who will overthrow the Romans who persecuted them for decades, but Jesus has a different idea. As He processes into Jerusalem on the donkey amid an enlarging crowd and louder shouts, He soon disappoints them. He is not the messiah-king they want; He is not the messiah who will bring earthly power. Instead, after He goes into the temple and chastises the money changers, the crowd loses hope that He is their Messiah-king; they leave him, only to become part of the crowd who later in the week will ridicule him and shout “Crucify Him.”
What began as a day of jubilation when the crowd out of love of their hope-for Messiah-king, gave Him one of their finest and most valuable possessions, their cloaks, ends with the people deserting Him.
Unlike the Jews’ cloaks, our cloaks are not cloth garments; instead, are they self-serving such as self-pity, self-centeredness, self-indulgence, holding on to hurts or something other? How do we put aside our “cloaks” or empty ourselves of them for Christ? What are our cloaks that we offer as we prepare to listen to the passion of Christ? How do we become vessels of God’s mercy and forgiveness? As members of the world community experience the effects of coronavirus, either directly or indirectly, are we becoming vessels of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and love? As a community are we followers who have responded to the present health crisis? It seems as though the answer is yes.
During these final days of Lent as we approach the glorious day of the resurrection again the question is asked where are we in the crowd? What are we thinking? As we pray this week, let us decide where we are in the crowd and what kind of followers of Christ we are.
What does the future hold for each of us, our family, our workers, our friends, and the world? None of us knows. In the meantime, Christ is calling us to love one another as we love ourselves, and as He loves us. Let us do as He asks.
Genevieve Robinson, OSB
April 4, 2020