“Palm Sunday”, by Fr. Baltazar

May our reflections of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection this week remind us that unlike other dramas, we are not mere spectators but participants in this event.

Today is a puzzling Sunday; the liturgy is a paradox, if not a contradiction. We have two names for this Sunday, PALM SUNDAY AND PASSION SUNDAY. You have palms bending in adoration and reeds that strike a thorn-crowned head; a king and a convict. In the procession we sing Hosannah, but in the responsorial psalm, we sing, “my God, why have you abandoned me?” Today, we start the most solemn week of the year, when we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Lukan gospel is framed by Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem. Jesus speaks about his rejection from the hands of the leaders of Judaism. In the transfiguration, Luke told us that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were speaking about Jesus’ departure “exodus” which he is about to accomplish in Jerusalem. Nothing can deter Jesus from what he perceives as God’s will for him and so he sets “his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus’ rejection cannot thwart God’s will. Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem will bring peace and pardon. In so doing, he establishes God’s kingdom.

Luke’s version of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem underscores the irony by emphasizing the power of Jesus and his royal welcome. Luke emphasizes his kingship, the most direct association of his entry with kingship comes in v. 38 (psalm 118.26) with the insertion of the word king. Apart from kingship, although not unconnected with it, is the reconciliation his death will bring about.

1. The passion and death of Jesus reminds me of the vivid portrayal of Jesus’ passion in the movie “The Passion of Christ.” Throughout the entire movie, when Jesus was being persecuted, when no parts of his body were being spared from bloody wounds, when all the taunting and insults were being heaped upon him, when all the possible cruelty was being thrown at him, Jesus took all of them not in stoic indifference, neither with a revengeful spirit, but by dignified silence and royal acceptance. He bears the suffering with dignity that truly reveals his royalty. In the cross, Jesus truly deserves to be called a King. If God is love, then the fullness of God’s love is revealed to us when Jesus died on the cross. Truly when Jesus breathed his last, the cross becomes his throne, where he hung in majesty and glory.

2. If the cross is the fullness of God’s royalty and majesty on the part of Jesus, the cross is also symbolic of our refusal to be subject to that kingship. We refuse to be subjects to this brand of kingship. It is symbolic of our sins. It is humanity’s sin that nailed Jesus to the cross and when we disobey the king’s command, we nail other people to the cross too. The cross reminds us of our cruelty to one another in our desire to seek our own selfish interests. The cross reminds us that we have not really loved enough; that we have not really loved God, ever willing to take on the pain that love entails, willing to sacrifice for the sake of the beloved.

3. Today will determine how we act the rest of the week, perhaps the rest of our lives. It is all about defining Jesus; not who he was, not the Jesus of history, but who Jesus IS, THE JESUS OF MYSTERY, Jesus at his very moment across the universe and deep in the hearts of all believers. May our reflections of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection this week remind us that unlike other dramas, we are not mere spectators but participants in this event. We are invited to see that the crucifixion is being replayed a thousand times daily in the lives of the outcasts, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, all because we refuse his kingship.