By Fr. Rich, O.P.
If Palm Sunday became a film, it would have been a blockbuster. With a cast of thousands for his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the cries of the crowd declare his kingship. If we fail to offer praise and glory to our God, Jesus himself offers this observation, “He said in reply, ‘I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!'” (Luke 19:40).
The march has been inevitable; the miracles, the interactions, the teaching and the preaching has set the people on fire with the Spirit. For a moment, they are caught up in the knowledge that the Messiah for whom they’ve waited is present among them, and they rejoice. As should we! Regardless of the number of times that we witness the account, Luke’s words should bring us to that moment in time, should inspire us to shout with the witnesses of long ago: Hosanna! Hosanna!!
How can we not speak of the Passion of Jesus Christ, from the scene in the upper room, where Jesus offers his Body and Blood as a gift to His followers and to us? How can we not share the sadness in Jesus’ heart as He challenges Peter’s proclamation, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you,” with the prophecy of the denial that is to come? How can it not challenge us to seek forgiveness for the times that we have somehow denied Jesus’ presence in our lives?
No matter how many times I read about the agony in the garden, my heart aches for the desolation that Christ must have felt in those moments and the humility and faith that it must have taken to submit His will to the Father’s, for us, for our redemption. It is hard for me to imagine that “He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.” The profound sense of loss and sadness when one of chosen disciples, Judas, betrays Him with a kiss must have only added to that agony.
The action flows quickly, changing scenes from Pilate to Herod and back to Pilate, Christ being subjected to abuse and humiliation, and the stoic, quiet acknowledgement of his divinity with which He responded.
The disciples have fled or denied Him. I often wonder what I would have done. I, of course, would like to picture myself as a staunch follower, getting as near as I could to let Jesus know that He was not alone. More likely I, too, would have fled in terror.
I’ve always admired Simon of Cyrene, unwillingly, unwittingly, becoming the one man who would assist the Christ in the final moments of the Sacrifice. For me, he stands for all people, as we are called to assist those around us to carry their crosses.
Even on the altar of Sacrifice, Jesus continues to offer mercy to those who seek it, redeeming the thief with His dying breaths.
How can we not feel the terror, when ” … about noon … darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.” (Luke 23:44-45). These things did not happen without the power of God. The irony of the centurion that makes the observation, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” (Luke 23:47).
Then comes the closing scene; one can almost hear the weeping of the angels, Joseph seeking to bury the body of Jesus, the women who mourned him preparing to care for the body. And so the blockbuster comes to an end, on a note of despair and sadness, but also with a note in the background of anticipation and hope; the story is not ended. In some ways, in truth, it has just begun.