PALM SUNDAY: A PARADOX OF GLORY AND TRAGEDYMt 26:17 - 27:66
THE CELEBRATION OF the Palm Sunday is something of a paradox because of the following elements we hear in the gospel readings: at the outset, we hear of the welcoming of Jesus, but later there were shouts to crucify Him. On the one hand, we see the glory of Jesus, but on the other hand, we see also His tragedy. The gospel serves as a synopsis of the whole celebration of the Holy Week. We remember the great event, the great story of our salvation in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospel journeys us back to the peak or crowning moments of Jesus’ life. It is the summary and the core of why was Jesus being sent by the Father to this world. The ultimate meaning of his coming into this world is being clearly seen in this great paschal event.
Let us try to pick up some significant things in the passion narrative. I can think of three sad things: a) betrayal; b) abandonment; and c) death.
Firstly, the gospel can be seen as a story of betrayal. We heard of Judas Iscariot, one of the disciples, who betrayed Jesus. Likewise, we have Peter, the trusted disciple, who did not join Jesus in praying at Gethsemane and who denied Him in the presence of the high priest’s maids.
Secondly, the gospel can also be seen as a story of abandonment. There were people who abandoned Him. Likewise, His loud cry, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani,” demonstrates a “seeming” abandonment by the Father.
Third, the gospel ends in crucifixion and death of Jesus. But the death of Jesus is rather seen as the fulfillment of what he lived for. It is the highest moment of God’s salvific plan for us. It is God’s greatest expression of his love for us.
Betrayal, abandonment and death are also our own experiences and stories.
On the one hand, we have experienced these in our relationship with others. Often we are victims of betrayal, abandonment, and death. But in some occasions, we were also the “victimizers” to others. We can hear stories of wives betrayed by husbands, and husbands betrayed by their wives. Infidelities seem to be rampant these days. It is unfortunate that migration has contributed to this occurrence. We can also hear stories of people betrayed and abandoned by their siblings. We can also hear stories of friends being betrayed, abandoned and killed by their friends. Thus, stories of betrayal, abandonment, and death are real stories. These are stories that some people would either love or hate to talk about. These are stories which are in need of a process of forgiveness; the kind of forgiveness that Jesus gave to his tormentors.
On the other hand, these stories are also true in our relationship with God. Modernism, secularism, consumerism, atheism…. all these contribute to the betrayal, abandonment, and death of God in our midst. How have we betrayed Him? Believing in Him and yet forgetting or abandoning our Christian obligation is a betrayal. Professing the Christian faith but immoral in one’s life is also a form of betrayal. The absence of the “sense of sin” is a betrayal to God who always asks us to repent and undergo conversion.
Have we abandoned God? Yes, we have abandoned Him at times. Wrong priorities in life can be reason for abandonment. If we no longer see the meaning and importance of Sunday worship is an index of abandonment of God. In that sense, we could have also killed God. People who brag their own achievements and successes at the expense of God can be dangerous. They say that they can live all by themselves, without the help of God. Thus, hey have killed God and God is now dead in their lives.
The Holy Week is a moment of grace for us. This is a moment whereby we can reflect upon the great love of God for us through his suffering and death on the cross. Love is a two-way relationship. God expects us to respond to this love. But if our response has been one of betrayal and abandonment, then, we ask for his forgiveness and mercy.
Have a meaningful Holy Week!
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