By FR. ROBERT ALTIER
Palm Sunday (YR A)
Readings: Matt. 21:1-11
In the first Gospel we hear about the glorious entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem with all the people lining His way and crying out their hosannas as the Lord passed by. These people had heard of the miracle of the raising of Lazarus from the dead and were praising the Lord for His mighty deeds. His entrance into the holy city was a great contrast. The people of Jerusalem, we are told, we greatly shaken and asked who this might be.
This is not the first time that the entire city had been shaken. We are told that something similar occurred when the Magi came to adore our Lord. When the people of Jerusalem heard that a new King had been born, the whole city was shaken by the news. They did not rejoice that the Messiah was born, but they trembled because they did not want their way of life to be disturbed.
We have to marvel at the fact that the people of Jerusalem are shaken again and ask who this is. Just ten days later the two disciples that walk with our Lord on the way to Emmaus ask if He is the only resident of Jerusalem who had not heard about the events that had taken place there.
It was not just the people of Jerusalem who were shaken; our Lord tells His apostles after the Last Supper that their faith in Him would be shaken. The Shepherd was struck and the sheep were dispersed. In contrast to this, after the city was physically shaken by the earthquake at the moment of our Lord’s death, the soldiers profess their faith in Jesus as the Son of God.
We too have to consider these events that are the most central to our faith and ask about our own response. Are we shaken when we think about the suffering and death of our Lord? Do we doubt that He is God? Do we not care about what happened to Him because we are too busy with our own things?
The people walking past our Lord as well as the high priests and the Pharisees, said that if Jesus would come down from the cross, then they would believe in Him. We believe in Him because He did not come down from the cross. Jesus, we are told in the second reading, emptied Himself. This is what we have to do as well. We need to empty ourselves of our preconceived ideas of who Jesus is and how things are to happen.
Although we know fully well who He is, we refuse to let go of our ideas that He just wants everything to be easy, happy, and pleasant in our lives. We forget that He came to show us how we are to live as His followers. More than that, we are now the children of God. Jesus, the only Son of God, has shown us what we can expect if we are God’s children. Most of us want God to fill us with what we think are the good things in life; He wants to fill us with what is the best. In order for this to happen we have to be emptied of anything that is less than the best.
This is the kind of thought that makes us tremble. But this next week brings us to the mysteries that define who we are. Without them we are not Christian. With them we are set free to be the children of God. Are we willing to empty ourselves so that the graces of this most holy time can fill us and form us?
We can be like the people who stood at a distance and watched what happened. They were curious, they were compassionate, but they walked away unchanged. Only those we were closest to the events of the week were changed.
Some were hardened in their lack of faith; others were so transformed by the events that they became saints. So, we have those in the mediocre crowd who were basically unmoved; we have those in the group who were configured against Him; and we have those among the small number who were willing to open their hearts to what God wanted of them.
Which are we?
We may feel shaken by that question, but if we have enough faith, we can speak the words of Jesus when He prayed that if it were possible that the cup might pass Him by. However, He prayed that God’s will, not His own would be done. Even in our fear and the weakness of our faith we can pray in this manner. God’s grace will change us so that we not only profess our faith that Jesus is the Son of God, but we take that profession into our hearts and live it in our lives.