” Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! ” John 12:13
The crowds had gathered for the festival. There was even a greater excitement and anticipation among them as word spread that Jesus, the “king of Israel ” ( John 12:13 ) was himself coming into Jerusalem! The people lined the streets. They spread their cloaks on the ground before him. They waved palm branches and threw them at the feet of the donkey he rode upon. It was indeed a triumphant welcome, befitting a king. Reports of his miracles had preceded Jesus, most especially and recently how he had raised Lazarus from the dead.
Who was this man, that the crowds struggled now to draw near to him? To catch a glimpse of him. The fervor built in a great hopeful crescendo. Here came the new “king of Israel ” who, like Moses before him, would free them this time from the opperssion of Rome. Such was the celebration that day that not even Jesus’ own disciples could really understand everything that was going on that day, in the tumult of the moment ( John 12:16 ) There was more than likely bewilderment within the crowd as well, to see Jesus riding a simple donkey and not up upon a majestic war horse. How was this is inspire the overthrow of the Empire?
Yet, here was Jesus- peaceful, sublime and most certainly reflective. For in his divinity, Jesus knew- this began the week of his Passion. His arrival in Jerusalem would ultimately be climax of his ministry. So much so with the prospects of the events that lay before him that, ” [a]s he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it .” ( Luke 19:41 ) We need to reflect here, as Christ was both divine and human. Did he weep with his human heart of the knowledge of the suffering he was about to undergo, or did he shed tears as God? In Genesis, God reflects on the Great Flood- ” I establish my covenant with you; Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood. I have set my rainbow in the clouds. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember my everlasting covenant with all living creatures of every kind on earth. ” ( Genesis 9:11-16 )
We hear in each Mass, as we recall the ultimate sacrifice of our Lord, that Jesus entered willingly into his Passion. Jesus knew the dark and difficult moments that lay before him. Jesus accepts the betrayal of one so close to him, informs Peter of how he would deny him and even endures the mockery of a trial. Jesus willingly accepts the public ridicule of his cross and the isolation of that long walk up Calvary. Even to the desperation of calling out- ” My God, my God, why have you forsaken me ?” ( Matthew 27:45 ) and surrendering- ” It is finished. ” ( John 19:30 ) Jesus knew in this one brief holy week, emotions would go from joy to sadness.
Why would God allow his only son to suffer these cruel indignities? ” For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…. ” ( John 3:16 ) Is this not the most valuable lesson that we must both practice and preach, everday? ” Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. ” ( John 15:13 )
There is not one among us who would not do everything within our power, to help a friend through painful suffering. Not one parent who whispers a prayer for God to place the burden upon them and remove it from their child.
These are the two important lessons of our Lord’s Passion, to extend this sacrifice to our neighbors- even to strangers. To come to understand that Christ was not only making his ultimate sacrifice for us but to demonstrate to us that it must be within us to willingly sacrifice for others. Also, to understand there will be situations in life that- pray as we may, we will be unable to alter the circumstances. We must have the faith Christ had, to endure certain hardships with the knowledge that God will guide us and stand by us.
Jesus bravely embraced all the pain and sin of the world. He did that for us, for the sake of the love God has for us. Can we not too, return that love by being ready to sacrifice ourselves for the needs and wants of others? God rose Jesus to eternal glory even after that was done to him here on earth. Keeping God in our hearts, living for others to demonstrate the compassion and mercy of Christ- will God not fulfill for us His promise of eternal life? God will, as God us done for us before. For the sake of love.
Almighty God, as today you entered Jerusalem to reveal to the world your true love for us- let us not withdraw from those difficult moments that will present themselves to us. Let us be ready to offer our own sacrifice for the benefit of others. As we enter this most holy of weeks, give us your grace to keep watch and maintain our Easter vigil. Let us remember and reflect on your sacrifice, so that we may indeed be worthy of your promise of eternal life. Pray that, like Jesus we have the strength and faith to live as Christ lived. To be and do for others and for you. For the sake of Love! Amen.