This Sunday, called Palm or Passion Sunday, is the first day of the Holy Week. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday are known as the Triduum; the climax of the Church liturgical year. There are two gospels proclaimed at today’s Eucharistic Celebration. The first gospel proclaimed before the procession with palms, tell of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.

Riding on a borrowed donkey, Jesus was hailed like a king by the crowd as they shouted blessing and praise to God. Centuries earlier, the prophet Zechariah prophesized to the residents of Jerusalem, a king who would come and bring peace. This saviour would come “humble and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). This image had been passed down to generations of their children.

The people wanted a king that can rid them of the Roman authorities, restore them to a proper kingdom, and be the proud and happy people they once were. They greeted Jesus as they would have greeted King David. David was remembered with much nostalgia for the good old days. They were looking for someone to come and do what David had once done for them. But kings normally come riding on horses, usually big ones. Their power is obtained and sustained by force. They expect to be treated nothing less than a king. Kings love power, but Jesus’ power is Love; an eternal and enduring love (Psalm 136). As Zechariah foretold, this messiah comes not to control the world but to save the world of its sin. (Luke 1:68)

The contrast between the joy of Palm Sunday and the sorrow of the Passion is bewildering. Jesus’ triumphal entry turns quickly into violent and bloody scenes. Intriguingly, Judas is not the only one who grieves Jesus.

After celebrating the Passover meal, Jesus takes James and John and Peter with him to retreat to Gethsemane to pray. As Jesus prayed to our Father, his closest companions can’t even keep their eyes open. As the crowds arrive with swords, one disciple despite Jesus’ teaching of peace, meets violence with violence, cutting off the ear of a fellow man. While Jesus is taken to the house of the high priest, Peter denies knowing Him three times. In the court of the high priest, religious leaders, who supposedly desire to do God’s will try to garner false witnesses against Jesus. The two who come forward to testify, are enough to convict Him of blasphemy. Jesus is then taken to Pilate. Pilate gives in to the demand of the crowd, washing his hands of any responsibility. In the end, only a centurion and a few women stay faithful to our Lord. No one of his closest of companions, no one with religious status, no one with civil authority does anything at all to stand for Him.

“God is not ‘once upon a time’ – God is ‘the never-ending story’ in which we are scripted”- Richard Rhor. Scripture is so much more than words on a page, it is a living story that invites us inward, to find ourselves within the story it tells. What image of ourselves do we find reflected back at us as we enter into the living and active drama of Jesus’ passion?

We are often too consumed with ourselves and ignore the impact we have on the people around us. The gospel text reminds us of our reactions toward the storms and turbulence of the world. How would we fair if place in this epic drama? Will our fidelity pass the test? Or will we seek our self-preservation at the cost of others’ well-being? Are we courageous enough to go against the will of the crowd?

To look within, takes courage. For many, what we see is often hard to look at, hard to face, and hard to peer upon. However much of what we see is equally lovely and astonishingly beautiful. Thus it is definitely worthwhile to risk looking inward; we see something of who we are and what we are made of and what we are made for. We are also affirmed in many ways. We will realise our aspirations and the changes needed for us to move towards holiness.

In this Holy Week that lies ahead of us, we are invited to look, to peer into ourselves and discover the life of courage and love that we are uniquely called to live, to continue, and enter ever more deeply into our relationship with the Lord. Are we ready to plunge inwards? Are we willing to response to this deeper invitation?

Joyous Praise

By Letitia