The heralding and humiliation
Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week; the week that changed the world. During this week, we commemorate our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem for the completion of the Paschal Mystery.
It is amazing how we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem today and five days later we venerate His death. Let us now reflect on some of the events in the two gospels.
In the first gospel (Lk 19:28–40), Jesus received a royal welcome as He entered the city of Jerusalem on a donkey. The crowd spread their garments in His path and waved palm branches as He passed by. People were excited and praised God by saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest (Lk 19:38).
Are you in the crowd laying down your garment as Jesus passes by? The spreading of garments is similar to the red carpet that is used today to greet very important people. In addition, the act of “laying down” is probably symbolic of Jesus laying down His life for us. How do we lay down our lives for others?
So, why did Jesus, the King of Kings, use a donkey instead of a war horse? In those days, it was not uncommon for leaders to use donkeys as a means of transportation (1 Kings 1:33). Horses were used during times of war and donkeys were used during peaceful times.
As a result, Jesus chose a donkey to symbolise His riding to conquer through love, compassion and forgiveness instead of violence. Also, Jesus wanted to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah in the Old Testament, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion…see, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey” (Zech 9:9).
Jesus wanted everybody to know that He was the Messiah. It is interesting to note that the donkey carried the Good News (Jesus) on its back. Are we prepared to carry the weight of the gospel beyond the confinements of the Church?
In the second gospel (the Passion), the Eucharist, the new covenant was instituted by Jesus at the last supper. Afterwards, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.
Here we get a glimpse of Jesus’ apprehension, His humanity. Jesus wanted His Father to remove the cup of suffering from Him. How many of us can relate to a time when we asked God to take away our suffering or the suffering of loved ones?
Ultimately, Jesus followed the will of the Father. “Christ was obedient even to accepting death on a cross” (Phil 2:6). Similarly, we too, need to ask God for the grace to embrace His will.
Then, an angel was sent from heaven to comfort Jesus. Maybe you are experiencing a challenging situation right now. Take courage because God sends His angels to comfort and to strengthen us during our difficult moments. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Ps 91:11).
After praying in the garden, Jesus returned to His disciples who were asleep. When the chief priests and the officers of the temple arrived to arrest Jesus, He “made no resistance” (Isa 50:5). However, one of Jesus’ disciples resisted and cut off the ear of the chief priest’s servant. Jesus did not condone this action and restored the servant’s ear.
Although Jesus bore insults and humiliation, He promoted compassion, love and forgiveness even up to His death, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43).
How do we respond to people who have humiliated us in the workplace, at school or in the church? Do we show them forgiveness and compassion like Jesus or do we seek revenge?
Pope Francis said that there is “no true humility without humiliation” and that if we are unable to endure humiliation then we are not really humble. Therefore, we need to take stock of our actions and to practise what Jesus taught us to do.
Jesus, forgive us when we allow our pride to choose violence over love. Give us the grace to endure humiliation and to respond to our enemies with clemency and love. Amen.
The Gospel Meditations for April are by Dr René Jerome Wihby, an assistant lecturer at the School of Education, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus and attends St Paul’s RC, Couva.