Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, The month of March is dedicated to devotion to St. Joseph. Let us ask St. Joseph to defend and help us on our path toward Heaven and to grant us a love for Jesus and Mary like he has in his heart! This Sunday we celebrate Palm Sunday. I share with you a reflection on Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week: “Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem: The solemn, yet simple entry into Jerusalem. Come, and as we make our way up to the Mount of Olives, let us go out to meet Christ, Who is returning today from Bethany, and of His own Will makes haste towards His most venerable and revered Passion, whereby He will bring to fulfillment the mystery of the salvation of mankind. (St. Andrew of Crete, Sermon 9 on Palm Sunday) Jesus leaves Bethany very early in the morning. Many fervent disciples of His had gathered there since the previous evening; some were natives of Galilee who had come on pilgrimage to celebrate the Passover, others were inhabitants of Jerusalem who had been won over by the recent miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus. Accompanied by this large gathering, as well as by others who joined them on the way, Jesus once more sets out along the old road from Jericho to Jerusalem towards the tiny summit of the Mount of Olives. The circumstances favored a great reception, because it was customary for the people to go out to greet the larger groups of pilgrims, who would enter into the city with songs and demonstrations of joy. Our Lord showed no opposition to the preparations for this jubilant entry. He Himself would choose the sort of mount He would ride in on - a simple donkey which He had asked to brought from Bethphage, a village very close to Jerusalem. People of importance had used the donkey as a form of travel in Palestine as far back as the time of Balaam. (cf. Num. 22:21 ss.) The procession was organized quite quickly. Some people spread a blanket on top of the animal and helped Jesus to mount upon it; others came forward to lay their garments on the ground to form a carpet for the donkey to pass over; many others ran along the roadside following the procession as it moved towards the city, laying down bits of green foliage along the route and waving olive and palm branches torn off the trees close by. And as they drew close to the city, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest!’ (Luke 19:37-38) Jesus makes His entry into Jerusalem as the Messiah upon a donkey, just as had been prophesied many centuries before. (Zach. 9:9) The people, also, acclaim Him in clearly messianic fashion. The pharisees knew these prophecies very well, but so also did the common people, and they were visibly overjoyed. Jesus accepts this homage and tells the pharisees, who were trying to dampen this demonstration of Faith and joy: I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out. (Luke 19:39) In any case, the triumph of Jesus is a simple affair, He makes do with a poor animal for a throne. I don’t know about you; but I am not humiliated to acknowledge that in the Lord’s eyes I am a beast of burden: ‘I am like a donkey in your presence, but I am continually with you. You hold my right hand,’ (Ps. 72:23-24) you take me by the bridle. (J. Escriva, Christ is Passing By, 181) Jesus also wants to enter triumphantly into the lives of men today, riding upon a humble animal; He would like us to bear witness to Him in the simplicity of our work done well, showing forth our cheerfulness, our serenity and our sincere concern for others. He wants to be close to us through the circumstances of normal human dealings. We too can tell Him on a day like today, Ut iumentum factus sum apud te… I am like a little donkey before You. But You are always close to me, You have taken me by the bridle and brought me to do Your Will; ‘et cum gloria suscepisti me’, and afterwards you have given me a big hug. (idem., A. Vazquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei, Madrid) Ut iumentum… I am like a donkey before You, Lord… like a beast of burden, and I shall always remain close to You. This could be an aspiration for us to use today. Our Lord has entered triumphantly into Jerusalem. A few days later, in this same city, He will be nailed to a Cross. Correspondence to grace: The triumphant procession of Jesus has now made its way from the top of the Mount of Olives and proceeds down the western slope towards the Temple looming ahead of them. Jesus can now see the whole city stretched out before Him. On seeing this scene Jesus wept. (Luke 19:41) This weeping, amidst so many shouts of joy and such a solemn entry, must have been totally unexpected. Seeing Jesus, the disciples were completely at a loss. In a single moment all their joy was abruptly shattered. Jesus sees how Jerusalem is sunk in sin, ignorance and blindness, Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. (Luke 19:42) Our Lord sees how other days will fall upon it which will no longer be like this present day of joy and salvation, but rather of misfortune and destruction. A few years later the city will be razed to the ground. Jesus weeps over the impenitence of Jerusalem. How eloquent these tears of Christ! They are full of mercy, sorrowing over the city which has rejected Him. Every means had been tried, including miracles, actions and words, sometimes in a tone of severity, at other times with leniency, … Jesus had tried everything with everyone, in the town and in the countryside, with simple people and with the learned doctors of the Law, in Galilee and in Judaea. Today, as well, and in every age, Jesus offers the riches of His grace to every man, because His Will is always to save.
In our lives also, every means has been tried and every remedy has been made available. On so many occasions Jesus has sought those little encounters with us! How very many ordinary and extraordinary graces have been showered upon us in our lives! For, by His Incarnation, He, the Son of God, has in a certain way united Himself with each man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart He loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin. As an innocent lamb He merited life for us by His Blood which He freely shed. In Him God reconciled us to Himself and to one another, freeing us from the bondage of the devil and of sin, so that each one of us could say with the Apostle the Son of God ‘loved me and gave Himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20). (Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes, 22) The story of each man is the story of God‟s continual watchfulness over him. Each man is the object of the Lord‟s special Love. Jesus was ready to do everything for Jerusalem, but the city was not willing to open up her gates to His Mercy. This is the deep mystery of human freedom which always retains that sad possibility of rejecting the grace of God. Free man, subject yourself to a voluntary servitude, so that Jesus won’t have to say of you what He is said to have told Saint Teresa about others: ‘Teresa, I was willing. But men were not.’ (J. Escriva, The Way, 761) How indeed are we responding to the countless promptings of the Holy Spirit, Who seeks to make us holy in the midst of our ordinary duties and surroundings? Each day how often do we say „yes‟ to God and „no‟ to our selfishness, to our laziness and to everything that amounts to a lack of love, even if it is only something small. The joy and sorrow of this day: The children of Jerusalem welcomed Christ the King. They proclaimed the resurrection of life, and waving olive branches, they loudly praised the Lord: Hosanna in the highest. (Liturgy of Palm Sunday. Hymn to Christ the King) We now realize that for many people this triumphant entry was very short-lived. Just five days later the enthusiastic hosannas gave way to angry shouts of Crucify Him!. What accounts for such a sharp turn-about, and such inconsistent behavior? If we are to understand at all, perhaps we only need to look a little into our own hearts. How different the cries, St. Bernard comments, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him,’ and then ‘Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest!’ How different the cries are that now are calling Him ‘King of Israel’ and then in a few days time will be saying, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ What a contrast between the green branches and the cross, between the flowers and the thorns! Before they were offering their own clothes for Him to walk upon, and so soon afterwards they are stripping Him of His, and casting lots upon them. (St. Bernard, Sermon on Palm Sunday, 2, 4) The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem asks for loyalty and perseverance from each one of us, it calls us to deepen in our faithfulness, and for our resolutions to be more than just bright lights that sparkle for a moment and then fade away. There are some striking contrasts in the depths of our hearts, for we are capable of the very greatest things and also the very worst, and so if we wish to possess the Divine Life and triumph with Christ, we need to be constant and through penance deaden within us anything that separates us from God and prevents us from following Our Lord unto the Cross. The liturgy of Palm Sunday puts these words on our lips: ‘Swing back, doors, higher yet; reach higher, immemorial gates, to let the King enter in triumph!’ (Antiphon during distribution of palms.) Anyone who barricades himself in the citadel of his own selfishness will never come down onto the battlefield. But if he raises the gates of his fortress and lets in the King of Peace, then he will go out with the King to fight against all that misery which blurs the eyes and numbs the conscience. (J. Escriva, Christ is Passing By, 82) Also in Jerusalem is Mary, wanting to be close to her Son in celebrating the Passover. It is to be the last Jewish Passover and the first Passover in which her Son is both Priest and Victim. Let us stay close to her. Our Lady will teach us how to remain constant, how to struggle in little things, and to grow continually in love for Jesus. May she be close to our side as we contemplate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of her Son. We will not find a more privileged place. (In Conversation with God - Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of Mary, Mother and Queen of all hearts, St. Joseph, and St. Columbkill, may we all grow in our love and gratitude for the Passion of our Lord! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel