Many are the thoughts that inhabit my mind. Many are the words I would speak – to myself and others. Some of those words are words of comfort and peace; others are words of jest – banter meant to amuse and draw attention to the fact that I am funny, or trying to be so. Less frequently are the words said in anger or frustration; words spilled forth to wheedle cooperation out of my hearer: “I’m out of control here! Don’t you dare cross me!”
On this Palm Sunday – a day installed in the Church Calendar as a day which calls to mind that day in which Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem to the cheers of the adoring throngs, and it is a crowd I would not be a part of. He brought peace; I want my own peace. He brought love; I want love, but in my own way. Oh, and I don’t like crowds. I don’t care what group we’re talking about. It’s enough that I drag myself to Mass. It’s like that old joke: “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.” But I love Jesus just the same.
God also gave me a well-trained tongue, just like Isaiah (Is.50:4). I have used my gift to amuse crowds in theater, to teach in Church, to entertain in family gatherings, and most recently, to pronounce my promises as a Pauline Cooperator, along with my wife (more about that here: http://www.daughtersofstpaul.com/Cooperators). But I’m not a joiner; I’ve been alone in a singularly distinct way in the largest of crowds.
God opens my ear, like Isaiah, to hear His Word as He speaks it through the voice of my wife, my family, friends, and the lovely Daughters of St. Paul, who have since the day of the Promise, become even more close as family. Yet, my face, like flint is set, just like Isaiah (See Chapter 50 of Isaiah). My eyes are fixed on the prize – Jesus Christ. And today the crowd will not relent; it’s a party, and I am not in the mood. Life gets crowded at times.
Holy Week is laid out before me. I’ve walked that road with Christ many times; I know where that road leads and where He will go. I, too, must follow.
Before the party begins, a kenosis must take place. Before Christ entered human history, He emptied himself. That’s what kenosis means: ‘To empty’. What did He empty? Himself. He laid aside His Divine prerogatives in order to become a man. He didn’t stop being God; He simply said, in essence: “I will not seek my own advantage over that of others” (see Philippians 2:6-11).
A festival before the Party beings. It’s Passover time. Have I known fear within times of plenty? Yes. Have others sought my hurt? Yes. Have I sought to hurt others? Yes. The Religious elite wanted Jesus dead. What a hideous way to kickstart a party!
A time of respite before the party: Jesus chills in Bethany with a leper. So much for successful networking, eh? Out of nowhere, Mary Magdalene swoops in, breaks an expensive alabaster jar of perfumed oil, and pours it on Jesus’ head. I know it’s the Magdalene, though the text in Mark’s Gospel doesn’t identify her as such, but that’s a topic for another post.
Are my deeds as pervasively, extravagantly loving as that of Mary’s in this pervious scene? Or do I complain when others do similarly like those in the story: “Why wasn’t that sold for money to give to the poor?!?!” Isn’t it amazing how our critics always have the inside take on what we do? Jesus defends those who love Him in a wastefully prodigal manner. I like that because I want to love Him like that. Thanks Mary! Not only that, but that single act of love is remembered these many centuries later, just as Jesus prophesied. We would say it went viral.
Watch out for the rot inside your soul! It can and will creep up on you. Just as Judas – as party prep was going on – sneaked away and arranged to have the chief priests arrest Jesus. Watch the money. Always the opportunistic part of my soul seeks leverage against tight times. I would wish that away, but it can only be healed by the Healer Himself.
Is it really about location? Jesus sat on a borrowed foal of a donkey. He celebrated Passover with His Apostles in a borrowed room. Did I skip over the part where He rode in on that day we now observe as Palm Sunday? I don’t demean it by doing so, but the noise strikes me as something obnoxiously loud and vain, but Jesus allowed it, even encouraged it. When the Religious elite complained to him about the festive bunch, Jesus told them it was inevitable. If the folks didn’t do it, the rocks would. See how even the world wants to welcome him in !?
Is my heart prepared to receive Him anew? Even a stony heart can sing I’m told.
Supper starts, the party continues. This, the first Eucharistic Celebration, is tinged with sadness and doubt because a betrayer is present. Is my Judas heart so cowardly as to fail to heed Christ when He appeals to me the most?
Boisterous protestations aside (listen here, Peter), we all are liable to faint dead away when the heat is on. Let Christ in me pray for all the weakness in the world; may His cup not pass from me until I have run the race set before me.
The party is disrupted – busted by the Temple Guard, and nowhere to hide! John runs off naked, thereby starting a fad that would only take hold in the early 1970s. Judas shines impudently and kisses Jesus, identifying Him as the One. Has there ever been any act of affection so dissolute and void of intimacy?
No one agrees about the case against Christ because there is no case against Christ. Only the fetid imaginings of a desperate conclave serve to “convict” Him.
My steps falter as I try to keep up with Him – this Man who strove so innocently to be our Peace, our Bond, our Shepherd. But He wills it! He wills it! He is no helpless victim; He is a saving victim.
What happened to the Party? That’s my gripe with Palm Sunday: It’s a barely discernible blip on the radar screen to the forthcoming horror of horrors that is Holy Week, culminating in the atrocity that is Calvary. O felix culpa!
I’m not a joiner. I’m alone, and I’m watching as the parade goes by, wondering what the crowd will do later this week. I know, of course, what they will do; we all do it. We change with the weather, though we proclaim to the contrary. “Try hard to fix yourself!” Ha!
What do you mean? It’s party time, and no one wants to know what tomorrow brings.
Still, Jesus sees me, and He gently gestures for me to join in. So I’ll join right in and watch with Him. There’s more than enough time to pontificate later after the party dies down.
Featured Image courtesy of: Rolf Kranz – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83573019