April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday

What a paradox we experience through the Gospel readings for today!

Jesus makes a symbolic grand entrance into Jerusalem riding on a donkey while the crowd chants “Hosanna – blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The people still want to make him king but He again, symbolically, says I am a different kind of “king” by riding in on a humble donkey. I wonder if the crowd and the disciples understood the message he was trying to convey.

We know the rest of the story by heart. Jesus is not the “king” the people expect and they eventually turn on Him calling for his crucifixion. I can imagine the people thinking “he duped us!” We thought he was the Messiah king and now he is like a common criminal.

I wonder how we would respond in the same situation. Would our expectations of someone turn into frustration if they were not who we wanted them to be and would that prevent us from seeing the reality of the situation as it did for them?

Of course there are many layers to the Passion narrative. The Jewish authorities and the people wanted Jesus out of the picture primarily because he undercut the very foundations of their Temple religion by calling God “Abba”, by including the excluded, by healing the sick, and by challenging their preconceived expectations of the Messiah.

Even though throughout the Jewish scriptures we see the picture painted of a suffering servant as the Messiah, as in Isaiah today, they still didn’t “get it”. Do we?

The disciples didn’t get it either, even though Jesus told them what was going to happen in advance. Judas betrayed Him, Peter and the other disciples said they would not deny Him yet they fell asleep in the Garden, denied him when questioned by the Jews and ultimately abandoned Him. This was not what they expected…

From this point, we know the story of Jesus before the Temple Court, Jesus before Pilate, the scourging, carrying the Cross, the crucifixion, death and the burial of Jesus. What are we missing? What is the message Jesus is trying to tell us through His suffering and death?

I think the message is clear.  God loves you so much that He sent His only Son to show you the way to experience the Reign of God now and for eternity (Jn 3:16 para) by letting go of your expectations of others, embracing the suffering and challenges in your life, and by loving others with the same love that Jesus has for you.

”The price and measure of love is sacrifice”……. Jesus suffered and died a horrible death on the Cross to show you how much God loves you and how much God wants your love.